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Demolishing and Building Up the Star Theatre (1901)

Unrated | | Documentary, Short | April 1901 (USA)
Time-lapse photography is used to show the manual dismantling and demolition of New York's Star Theatre over a period of about 30 days.

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(uncredited)
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Storyline

This film shows the demolition of the historic Star Theatre building (formerly Wallack's) at the corner of Broadway and 13th Street, New York. To secure this unique picture a Biograph camera was kept constantly at work by specially devised electric apparatus for weeks, during which time exposures were made every four minutes, 8 hours a day. Before the contractors began their work of tearing down and after the last vestige of the building had been removed, 15 seconds of exposure at normal speed were made. Thus in the finished positive one views at first the old Star Theatre standing as it had for years looking down with serenity upon the bustle of Broadway traffic. Then as if struck by a tornado of supernatural strength, the building begins to crumble. Chimneys totters, walls cave in, and whole stories vanish, until at last the site shows only a cellar excavation; and the Broadway cars with the sidewalk procession continue as if nothing unusual had happened. When this view is shown in ... Written by AMB Picture Catalogue (1902)

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Genres:

Documentary | Short

Certificate:

Unrated
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April 1901 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Building Up and Demolishing the Star Theatre  »

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One of the 50 films in the 4-disk boxed DVD set called "Treasures from American Film Archives (2000)", compiled by the National Film Preservation Foundation from 18 American film archives. This film was preserved by the Library of Congress. This version has a piano music score and runs 96 seconds. See more »

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User Reviews

Extremely Impressive For 1901
22 August 2005 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

For 1901, this footage is impressive both in its creativity and in its quality. It would be easy to believe that it had been made much later than it actually was. The time-lapse technique works remarkably well, and it creates an interesting and very watchable movie.

The idea is a simple one, but ambitious for its time. As a massive old theater building was being torn down, a film crew from American Mutoscope & Biograph set up a stationary camera timed to take photographs at regular intervals over the entire course of the process, creating a fast-paced movie of the building's demolition. The illusion works perfectly, and it is also very interesting to watch. Almost as interesting as the building itself are some of the other details in the surrounding neighborhood. An awning in the foreground continually appears and disappears, along with many other such details.

The earliest film-makers often showed quite an imagination and some determined resourcefulness in their efforts to get the most out of their equipment. Although footage like this is now more commonplace and is easier to obtain, this pioneering effort well deserves to be remembered and watched.


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