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Colony Theatre 9/24/27

It was eighty years ago this month when Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie made its debut at New York’s Colony Theatre — and the history of animation was changed forever.

I was rummaging through my movie files over the weekend and I came across this four page program for the Colony Theatre from 1927, a little more over a year before Mickey’s gala premiere. At the risk of going slightly OT, I thought I’d post this (below) for my friends J.B. Kaufman, Leonard Maltin, David Gerstein, Michael Barrier and the six other people I know who might find this fascinating.

There are a couple of things to note. First off, it has a great cover illustration by C.E. Millard, and a logo which designates the Colony as “A Universal Theatre”. On page 3 you’ll see Disney’s The Ocean Hop, an Oswald Rabbit cartoon, is programmed to play after the feature (as a “chaser”?). Also note that cigarettes are provided free, and there is no tipping the hostesses. The final page features the theatre floor plan and indicates that the admission price is only 25 cents before 2pm.

Ahh, moving-going in the 1920s. Click on thumbnails below to enlarge – and return to the way it used to be.

  • Wow! All that and Oswald too for about $2.50 in today’s money.

    I’m presuming the “animated” Adventures of Baron Munchausen mentioned no longer exists. There’s no corresponding entry for it at IMDB and it’s not listed under the short entry for Paul Peroff.

  • Ted

    Don’t sell the material short; plenty of us find this kind of thing interesting.

  • Jim Korkis

    A chaser was often to chase people out of the theater so they could bring in the next audience. However, it would be odd for OSWALD to be such a thing since the success of the OSWALD cartoons is what convinced the owner to take a chance on STEAMBOAT WILLIE. Yes, I am one of those other six people who love this stuff.

  • Great item Jerry! You know by the two Disney blogs I run that I love this type of stuff. Thanks for sharing!

    I own an original NY Times newspaper from November 18, 1928 with an ad for the Colony Theater. Included in that ad are two lines of copy related to Steamboat Willie. I also own the NY Times newspaper from November 19, 1928 that has a review of Steamboat Willie written by Mordaunt Hall. Very cool stuff!

  • AmPhotog

    Why would a theater have a house physician?

  • “A chaser was often to chase people out of the theater so they could bring in the next audience.”–Jim Korkis

    I stirred up a bit of a storm on the animation show forums site when I brought up the subject of short films as “chasers.”

    “Not true!” said a lot of folks.

    Nice to see someone over here besides Jerry and myself know their film history.

  • Love seeing this kind of history…and I also agree that it’s totally relevant to this blog.

    I’m extremely curious, like robcat, about that Baron Munchausen picture. It mentions “animated”, but it’s called a picture (not a cartoon like the Oswald short is). I’m presuming it’s a live action picture? Now my interest is piqued (Huge fan of the 88/89 version)!

  • If an Oswald short wasn’t an adequate “chaser” I’m sure the organ performance of “Die Meistersinger” that followed would have done it for most 1920’s theater goers.

    re: Paul Peroff… all the works listed under him at IMDB are described as “animated, short”. That could mean a lot of things, but maybe the classic literature connection of some of the titles caused them to be described as “pictures” rather than “cartoons”?

  • According to Karl Cohen, Paul Peroff is by the same man who later created Jim and Judy in Teleland one of the first TV “cartoons”.

    • Kristjan B

      Wonder what he (Paul Peroff) did in between the Baron cartoon and the Jim and Judy both are several years a part.

  • Paul N

    Jerry, any time you have stuff like this, you have a ready audience in me, so the count of people who are interested is officially +1. All that entertainment, and a great illustration to take home too!

    Also great to see Jim K posting here – Whatsup Jim!

  • Karl Cohen

    I discovered Peroff when I was researching early pioneers of TV animation. My research was published by UCLA in Animatrix #5 (1989). A complete set of his Jim and Judy in Teleland, a 16mm production, is in the UCLA Film Archive.

    Peroff created 52 episodes of Jim and Judy in Teleland in 1949 and ’50; however, it appears he had a very dificult time finding distribution for this product. In the 1990s I discovered David Shepard had the rights to the series along with some business files for the show. The show was sold to Venezeuala in 1954, to Deadwood, South Dakota in 1954 and to Japan in 1956.

    Paul Peroff is one of the many obscure animation irectors/producers who had a long history working in the medium. Jeanpaul Goergen living in Berlin and the late Bill Moritz are the only scholars I’ve run across who are familiar with his work. Jeanpaul fond out that he was born in St. Petsburg, Russia in 1886 and he emigrated to the US before World War One. He studied art at the Arts Student League (1914-’16 and 1918-’19) and in the 1920s he worked as a cartoon designer, camerman and writer in the cinema industry. In 1927 he opens Peroff Pictures in NYC. Jeanpaul has found a good deal of information about these early productions and that the British Film Institute has tinted copies of “Baron Munchhausen or Nothing But The Truth” and a 2nd silent film. Murry Glass used to sell prints of a 3rd film from this period, “Willie’s Nightmare.”

    Probably in 1929 Peroff moved to Germany. Jeanpaul has seen several films from this period and notes that during the war he was with a company making propaganda films for the Eastern front.

    It isn’t clear when he returned to the US, but besides the TV series Jeanpaul has found six films made by Coronet Films (1958 – 1963) “that could have been done by Peroff” (the films do not have credits). It is not known when or where he died.

  • Don’t knock that organ solo.

    It was promoted which means that folks would go to hear it.

    The Colony was run by Sam “Roxy” Rothafel. He was a real showman.

  • Steven Rowe

    Paul Nicholas Peroff died in Conneticut in 1980.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Thanks Steve for the date if it’s correct.

  • James Layton

    A bit more info on the Paul Peroff films held by the British Film Institute:

  • david hughes

    Nice program…i have a large collection of theatre programs illustrated by Millard. Any chance you would sell me this one from the Colony or send me a color copy of the front?I would much appreciate it. Thank you…David

  • Michael Hayde

    Just found this one! Based on all the research I’ve been doing on the silent era, I’d call the organ solo the “chaser.” (The fact that it’s a Wagner piece practically guarantees it!) In the silent days, the two-reel comedy usually FOLLOWED the feature and closed the show, because managers wanted audiences to exit laughing. The fact that Oswald got this spot (and so early into his existence) is quite a compliment – or at least speaks to how highly Universal regarded their cartoons!