America’s First Movie Theater: Vitascope Hall

HS 001-Vitascope PrintNew Orleans, Louisiana – June 3, 2016 –The site of Vitascope Hall, where the first movie theater in America opened on Canal Street at Exchange Alley in 1896, is finally getting its due. After a 20-year crusade by Ed and Susan Poole, internationally-known film historians and archivists, the site will get a historical marker.

“It’s a shame it took so long, but we’re grateful for this recognition of Vitascope Hall,” said Ed Poole. The Pooles originally applied in 1996 to commemorate the 100th anniversary, years before the arrival of Hollywood South.

Momentum picked up when Linda Thurman learned about Vitascope Hall and the stalled application process. “I met Ed and Sue while researching a book about Louisiana’s film industry. When they told me that this important piece of history was hiding in plain sight, I had to do something.” 

Vitascope Hall croppedNew Orleans philanthropists Russ and Sandra Herman signed on as sponsors, and the team quickly re-submitted the application. According to Sandra Herman, “We are delighted to underwrite this project that celebrates the history of New Orleans and the city’s love of movies.”

Michael W. Domingue from the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism (DCRT) was already on board and working to move the process through city and state government. He had first heard the story of Vitascope Hall at the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge in 2014 from the Pooles, who were there doing during a presentation for Hollywood on the Bayou. “As soon as I heard it from Ed, I knew that the story of Vitascope Hall was the crowning jewel for New Orleans/Louisiana as Hollywood South. We had to make this historical landmark a reality.”

Lynne Coxwell oversees the Louisiana Historical Marker Program and has helped with the application process. Scott Hutcheson, the mayor’s advisor for the cultural economy, is enthusiastic about recognizing the historic landmark.

The Louisiana Tourism Development Commission is scheduled to grant final approval for the historical marker at its annual meeting in August. An unveiling ceremony will be announced at a later date.

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About the Vitascope Hall Team:

Ed and Susan Poole have published more than 20 reference books including Hollywood on the Bayou and Learn About Movie Posters. Their latest, America’s First Movie Theater: Louisiana’s Vitascope Hall, is a vividly-detailed account of the industry’s early days.

Linda Thurman is a Louisiana native and former Hollywood executive. She is the author of Hollywood South: Glamour, Gumbo, and Greed. Pelican Publishing 2016.

Sandra Herman is a member of the French Market Corporation’s Board of Directors and President of the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Center for Women in Government and Business. She designed the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism and served as its first cabinet-level Secretary. Russ Herman is a founding member of Herman, Herman & Katz, a nationally-recognized litigator, and in the Trial Attorney’s Hall of Fame.

Michael W. Domingue is the FHWA Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Administrator for the State of Louisiana. With an office in DCRT, the RTP is a partial funder of the Lafitte Greenway and many other pedbike transportation infrastructure projects in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana.

Linda Thurman
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2 thoughts on “America’s First Movie Theater: Vitascope Hall

  1. Hello Ms Thurman, do you have any photographs of the Vitascope theatre in New Orleans? I have a FB group called “New Orleans in pictures”, if you have some old photos you would like to share with the public, your contributions would be most welcome sincerely Stephen Bach Bayonne, France


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