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Demolishing and Building Up the Star Theatre (1901)

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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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Title: Demolishing and Building Up the Star Theatre (1901)

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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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Documentary | Short





Release Date:

April 1901 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Building Up and Demolishing the Star Theatre  »

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Did You Know?


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

The demolition of a building in 1901, in timelapse. Great!
13 February 2004 | by (California) – See all my reviews

A fascinating example of timelapse photography, and quite

possible the first. Shot from one angle, the movie begins with a

real time shot of a building across the street, the Star Theater.

Vehicles of all kinds crowd the street below, and the sidewalk is

bustling with people.

Then time flashes forward. As though watching somebody

dressed in layers of clothes start to strip, we watch as Star

disappears, pealed away layer by layer by an ant-like demolition

crew. The final shot, still from the same angle, is again in real

time, showing people and vehicles passing through the street,

past what is now a vacant lot.

We're so used to seeing examples of this same sort of scene

now, it's strangely unnerving to see it happen 102 years ago. The

picture quality of the print I saw was extremely crisp, and fine

details (even the faces of passersby on the street) were visible.

The only thing I didn't like so much was seeing a beautiful building

get torn down. Still, at least it was all captured on film for us to see

now. A fascinating document.

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