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More than a century later, silent film collection again shown in State Theater
By Dan Ehl
Those attending the Sunday and Monday, May 1 and 2, Brinton Extravaganza were treated to two hours of silent movies and magic lantern slides, some last shown in the Washington theater (then an opera house) more than 100 years ago. The event celebrated the further restoration of much of the W.F. (Frank) Brinton and wife Indiana film collection, as well as the State Theater in Washington being recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest continuously operating cinema.
Beginning in the late 1890s the Brintons began touring the upper Midwest showing films at opera houses, town celebrations and at traveling Chautauqua tent shows. The short films documented everything from scenes of the Battle of Manila and Rough Riders swimming horses across a river to street scenes in Jerusalem with Arabs, beggars and peddlers. There are even several films in the collection by French film pioneer Georges Melies. Paying up to 25 cents per person, people swarmed to see the miraculous pictures that moved.
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