First Night at the Movies in Hawaii
“It produces life!” “It baffles analysis!” “It amazes all!” The advertisement announces the “modern miracle,” Thomas Edison’s veriscope, as it would show the first motion pictures screening in Hawaii at the Opera House on February 5, 1897.
Each of the film’s duration was less than a minute and had very simple plots. For example, in “A Watermelon Contest,” two men in overalls race to see who can finish eating his large watermelon slice first, continually biting the watermelon, chewing, and spitting out the seeds for the film’s entire nineteen-seconds-long run.
“There was everything but the sound of voices, and in the bull fight it required no stretch of the imagination for one to think the battle itself was taking place a few feet away. The scene was almost indescribable. The great fire scene was a wonderful sight, for everything in the pictures was as it appears on such occasions in a large city, the very breathing of the horses could be noticed, as they stand facing the audience after the run to the scene of the fire.”
A smaller audience than expected watched the performance, probably because not everyone knew what a veriscope was. However, a week later, the Veriscope performed to “crowded houses” in Hilo.
Evening bulletin., February 04, 1897, Image 5
“The Modern Miracle: The Veriscope to Be Placed on Exhibition”
The Hawaiian star., February 04, 1897, Image 1
“Wonderful Contrivance: Veriscope Presented in Honolulu for First Time”
The Hawaiian star., February 06, 1897, Image 1
“Wonderful Sights: The Veriscope Exhibition Surpasses Greatest Expectations”
The Hawaiian gazette., February 09, 1897, Page 6, Image 6
“Local and General”
Evening bulletin., February 20, 1897, Page 5, Image 5