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First Projection Motion Picture plaque.

Misleading Movie Plaque

Field review by the editors.

New York, New York

This plaque would have you believe that this was the spot where movies were first projected. Not so. Motion pictures were first publicly projected eight months earlier, in the Model Variety Theater in Chicago. This isn't even the spot where motion pictures were first projected to a paying audience. That happened five months earlier in the Grand Caf in Paris. Motion pictures had even been publicly projected in New York City before this.

All that this plaque marks is the spot where motion pictures were first projected to a paying audience (the film was part of a vaudeville show) by Thomas Edison, who until then had been content to have people pay to see his short films on peephole machines. In fact, the film that Edison projected was simply three of his peephole films, spliced together.

Ironically, the motion picture industry, which commissioned the plaque, hated Thomas Edison. Filmmakers fled New York City for Los Angeles in the 19-teens to escape Edison, who had used an army of lawyers to maintain his iron grip on profits. The center of the world's trillion-dollar film industry became Hollywood, thanks to Edison, and all that New York City got was this lousy, misleading plaque.

Why did the industry bother? And why wait until 1938? It probably had something to do with public relations at the time....

Misleading Movie Plaque

W. 34th St., New York, NY
On the north side of 34th Street, affixed to the outside wall of Macy's, midway between 7th Avenue and Broadway.
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