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A Night at the Nickelodeon


Introduced by Richard Koszarski

Live music by Donald Sosin

Despite the release of a handful of feature-length films, most movies in 1912 still lasted only ten or fifteen minutes. Thousands of motion picture theaters across the country did their best to offer a balanced program of fiction and non-fiction, comedy and melodrama, with most of them changing the bill every single day.

Program runs approximately 70 minutes.

All films from 1912.

A Vitagraph Romance

Dir. James Young. 16mm, The Museum of Modern Art. Clara Kimball Young is among the stars in this early behind-the-scenes showcase, which was designed to give movie fans a taste of what life in the big Brooklyn studio was like.

How a Mosquito Operates

Dir. Winsor McCay. 35mm, Library of Congress. Originally intended to accompany McCay’s live vaudeville act, this bit of nightmarish surrealism from the master of screen animation is astonishing, hilarious, and surprisingly bloody.

Flo’s Discipline

Dir. Harry Solter. 35mm, Library of Congress. Universal-Victor. Florence Lawrence—promoted as America’s first film star—has trouble with her boarding school charges in this Coytesville, New Jersey, romantic comedy. One of the earliest releases from the newly organized Universal Film Manufacturing Company.

Winter Visit to Central Park

35mm, Library of Congress. Edison. This comprehensive bit of reportage seems to show nearly everything in and around the park, from the Met to the Dakota, as well as the zoo, the Arsenal, and Cleopatra’s Needle—with time out for roller hockey and some ice-skating on “the frozen lake.”

The Land Beyond the Sunset

Dir. Harold Shaw. 35mm, George Eastman House. Edison. When the Fresh Air Fund takes newsboy Joe out of the slums for a day in the country, the results are hardly what anyone might expect. A remarkably ambivalent take on social activism for a film apparently sponsored by one of New York’s great social welfare agencies.

An Unexpected Reception

16mm, Library of Congress. Pathé. Probably shot somewhere near Pathé’s Jersey City studio, this rude French-style farce makes good use of two incredibly tenacious pit bulls. Mack Sennett would model American slapstick comedy on films like this.

A Grocery Clerk’s Romance

Dir. Mack Sennett. Digital projection. Keystone. The first few Keystones were shot in New York and New Jersey, just days before Mack and Mabel got on the train for Hollywood. This (literally) anarchic Ford Sterling comedy was made in and around Rambo’s Tavern in Fort Lee, where Sennett had been working with D. W. Griffith’s Biograph company for the past two years.

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