The Thanhouser Studio and the Birth of American Cinema (USA, 52 minutes)
Directed by: Ned Thanhouser
Written by: JR
This 52-minute documentary recounts the untold story of the remarkable rise and fall of one of American’s pioneering motion picture studios during the first decade of the twentieth century. It traces the evolution of one family’s career as it transitioned from producing live theater to establishing one of the most successful independent silent motion picture studios. The studio produced and release over 1,000 silent motion pictures that were acclaimed by critics and seen by audiences around the world. Set against a background of the industry playing out in New York, Florida and California, it is a compelling story of fame and fortune, twisted by the vagaries of fate and ending on a bittersweet note. Edwin Thanhouser, co-founder of the studio, considered the over 1,000 films released by the studio to be of no lasting value. After shuttering the studio in 1918, he destroyed all the negatives. Thankfully, archives and private collectors around the globe saved many of the distribution prints with over 225 known to be extant. This documentary utilizes dozens of archival film clips from the studio and contemporary production companies to tell the story of the Thanhouser studio and the birth of cinema in America.