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The Passion Play of Oberammergau (1898) Poster

Trivia

One of the first films to incorporate specially-built sets, it is variously claimed to be (a) the first narrative feature film, or (b) the first film to split the roles of director and producer.
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According to S. McKechnie, (writing in the early 1930s), the film was originally released in three reels. Since more recent sources claim it was a two-reeler, it is likely that it was cut to two reels after its first run.
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The projection equipment almost certainly used for the film's first run was either an Edison 'Vitascope' (provided by Edison), or an International Film Company 'Projectograph' (provided by Porter).
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Since there were no purpose built cinemas in 1898, after its first spectacular run on Broadway, the film was incorporated into religious services.
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Some sources date this film 1897. This is because although released in January 1898, it was completed in 1897. Since modern practice is to date a film by its release date, it is perfectly correct to date it 1898. Earlier sources using the 1897 date are also equally correct, however.
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Due to the huge popular interest in the 'Oberammergau Passion Play' (staged every ten years in Bavaria) there appears to have been a rush to put passion plays on film both in America and France. As a result, it is easy to confuse this production with others produced during the same general period.
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Early audiences were led to believe that the film was a record of the actual Oberammergau Passion Play staged in Bavalia every 10 years. This would have been impossible, however, since the most recent time it had been staged was in 1890 - before the invention of the motion picture!
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At least until early 2007, this film was generally considered to be "lost". However, in September 2007, a secondary source claimed that a 16mm reduction print (presumably of the edited 2-reel version) exists at the 'International Museum of Photography and Film' George Eastman House film archive. Optically enlarged back to 35mm, restoration prints are claimed to have been made. However, as of April 2014, no digital version of this historic motion picture (which is in the public domain) appears to have been released.
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