A few days ago, I received the package from the bookstore specialized in vintage movie magazines. I won several issues of Kinema Junpo from 1920’s and ’30s from the online auction. Kinema Junpo is one of the oldest periodical publication on movies, dating back to 1919, and still in business. One of the issues in the package was dated March 11, 1924. It’s only 28 pages, including covers, but to me, it contains a wealth of information about the movie experience almost 90 years ago. Between its pages, I found a small sheet of paper. It is printed on both sides, then folded in half at the center. It is a leaf from a movie theater program. Titled “ORIENTAL NEWS” in excessively decorated letters, this somewhat yellowing paper informs us movie experience at TOYO KINEMA, one of the most prestigious theaters in Tokyo area before World War II. The original owner of the magazine must have stuck it between the pages of the magazine, and forgotten about it.
The feature article in the NEWS is the notes on Mary Pickford’s LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY (1921), the main attraction of the program for the week of April 13 (no year is given). Here is the list of attractions:
1. (Music) march, High School Cadets (Sousa), played by the Hatano Orchestra
2. (New) INSIDE THE MOVIE INDUSTRY, 2 reels, Gyokudo Kouzumi, the benshi
3. (New) ZOKU AMATUER CLUB, 3 reels, Thomas Kurihara Productions
4. (Fairy Tale) SHITA-KIRI SUZUME, 3 reels, Thomas Kurihara Production
5. (Music) Scenes alsaciennes, Masnet, played by the Hatano Orchestra
6. (Feature) LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY, 10 reels, Tenryo Takita, Musei Tokugawa, the benshis
In case you are wondering, back in old days, prestigious movie theaters entertained their customers with a set of program, comprising music, newsreels, short programs, and feature presentation.I am not quite sure about the original title for 2. (it’s a literal translation from Japanese), guessing it must have been a 2-reeler from Hollywood. 3. and 4. are short films from the high-blow production company founded by Thomas Kurihara, who had acted in several Thomas H. Ince films in Hollywood a decade earlier. He had returned to Japan to join Taisho Katsuei, which went into hiatus in 1922, then formed his own production company.
The magazine itself featured a handsome advertisement for LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY (image on the top). The film was, of course, among the most popular works in entire silent era, and probably made a considerable profit for the importer, which ran the ad. I naturally assumed that the original owner saw the advertisement in March 1924, then went to see the film next month. Actually, little bit of research revealed it wasn’t so. The owner went to see the film in April 1923, then stuck the program leaflet between the magazine pages next year.
Tokyo area was hit by the Great Kanto Earthquake in September 1923, which forced the TOYO KINEMA to close its doors for a few months (1). When it reopened its business, its popular benshis and the Hatano orchestra had already found jobs somewhere else. Also, according to the records, ZOKU AMATEUR CLUB premiered on April 13, 1923 at none other than TOYO KINEMA. So, the program is definitely from the year 1923. The owner must have stored it somewhere safe amid all the confusion of earthquake aftermath, then placed it between the pages when he/she saw the ad in the magazine.
The leaflet tells us the showing for the coming week: SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT (1920) directed by Cecil B. DeMille. I don’t know if it’s a premiere or a revival, but I assume it was the latter, since three year gap for importing a Hollywood movie is too long a duration even for the 1920’s (2).
In coming weeks, I will post other interesting ads and articles from the same issue of Kinema Junpo.
(1) TOYO KINEMA was redesigned in 1928, which became a very rare example of Modernist architecture (some called it Dadaist). It had been in business until 1970’s, but the building and its real estate became the center of ownership disputes and notorious real estate speculation in late 1980’s. It is now a parking lot.
(2) In fact, the same Kinema Junpo runs the ad for the ADAM’S RIB (1923), which boasts “Better than MANSLAUGTER!”, implying MANSLAUGHTER (1922) had been shown already.