On This Day: March 22


Welcome to Movieline's new daily feature, where we step into the wayback machine, hit the "I feel lucky" button, and revisit events and people, tremendous and trivial.

And wouldn't you know it, the very day we start is the 115th birthday of the movies! After the jump... See! Workers leave their factory! Thrill! As... industrial... functionaries... exit... their place of... employment! Plus! The flop that was SelectaVision and birthday best to James T. Kirk.

1895 -- August and Louis Lumière screen what's regarded as the "world's first movie", Leaving the Lumière Factory, to a private audience at Paris's Sociétéd Encouragement pour l'Industrie Nationale. Don't be fooled by the verite vibe -- the brothers had it all choreographed, though their three-act structure was still a work in progress. Not only that, the auteurs, perhaps with a view to cashing in with successive home-cinematograph releases, made three slightly different versions -- identifiable by the number of horses (none, one or two) pulling the cart -- though they wisely let the scenery-chewing canine steal the show in each iteration. But why, given the title, are men clearly seen entering the factory? Dan Brown's The Lumiere Illumination can't be far off.

1931 -- William Shatner beams down to this planet. We wish the unstoppable eccentric a happy 79th birthday, a very good year indeed, and all the best for his reliably bizarre 2010 ventures, from inventing a "new form of interactivity" with Video Tweets to taking on Facebook with MyOuterSpace, his own social networking page.

Hit it, Bill.

1981 -- After 17 years of painstaking research and development -- and at a cost of $150m -- RCA finally releases its SelectaVision machine, which plays pre-recorded vinyl video discs, a literally groovy technology along the lines of a record player. However, during the epic period it has taken to reach consumers, video cassette recorders and laser-disc players have already hit the market. As one Wall Street analyst tells Time: "Probably 98% of the people who are exposed to videodisc and a videotape recorder for the first time will buy the tape recorder." He was dead right. While RCA expected to sell 500,000 in the first year, they sold only 550,000 in total through to 1984, when the company discontinued production, having lost $580m on the project. Still aficionados claim that SelectaVision's presentation of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea has a "warmth" Blu-ray just can't replicate.


  • My step-dad was a salespersons's wet dream.
    When we wanted the Atari 2600, the dick at Caldors convinced him we HAD to have the Magnovox Odyssey 2.
    When we wanted Star Wars toys, the dick at Toys R Us convinced him to buy us BattleStar Galactica figures.
    When we wanted a VHS Recorder, the dick at Cross Town Video Services convinced him to buy an RCA Selectavision player.
    That's right.
    My formative years were spent inserting and flipping and inserting and flipping and holding the fast forward and fast rewind buttons at the same time to look at still frames of STAR WARS and inserting and flipping and masturbating to Koo Stark in EMILY and Pia Zadora in BUTTERFLY and inserting and flipping and trying to parse the drug humor in Cheech and Chong's UP IN SMOKE.
    Then I finally got fed up and spent an entire summer working in a wood mill in Vermont to be able to purchase my own VCR for, like, four hundred bucks.
    Man, my stepfather was a fucking asshole.

  • Seth Abramovitch says:

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