Reflecting back on 1929, the LA Times predicted that a global Airship network would link Los Angeles to the world and the first-ever talking picture was honoured at the first-ever Oscars Awards. Tintin was in the funny pages and new radio stations were broadcasting concerts into people’s homes.
Type ‘1929’ into a search engine today, and it’s likely to show you the Wall Street crash, the stock exchange had danced a little shimmy, but that was nothing new. What was new in 1929, was a world of technical wonders as far-reaching and as full of promise as any you’ll see today.
Of all the places you could be in 1929, none was more exciting than California and the movie business. That year, the year S.L. Christie built his first projector, around 800 U.S. feature films were released, the Marx Brothers were on the screen and Mickey Mouse had spoken. Unfortunately, that little shimmy spun into a wobble that set the entire global economy awry and Christie Inc. – a child of optimism – had to grow up and grow up fast.
This was at a time when cinema was establishing itself as the people’s entertainment when a handful of coins could buy you an entire afternoon of escapism. However, pictures that moved, actors that spoke and colours that shone all depended on projection – and Christie had a flair for that.
Carbon arc lamps were noisy, unreliable and tended to catch fire – Christie introduced xenon lamps. Film reels had to be changed mid-feature – Christie introduced platter systems so they didn’t. Christie also invented gearless and self-lubricating projectors – innovations that kept the drama on the screen and out of the projection booth. In that century, as in this, cinema and Christie were inseparable.