Way before Doris Duke Theatre was even built, the Academy was showing movies. We’re talking silent films in Central Courtyard in 1938. Stuff like “The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots,” a super early experimental film produced by Mr Electricity, Thomas Alva Edison, and the Mack Sennett classic comedy “A Clever Dummy.” How amazing would it have been to sit under the Honolulu moon watching Georges Méliès’ pioneering scifi “A Trip to the Moon” from 1902? That’s what played Feb. 17, 1938—the first night of film at the Academy. Where did the 16mm reels come from? The Academy had an agreement with the Museum of Modern Art Film Library Corporation, which lent us 17 films for a first series that ran from Feb. 17 to March 17, 1938. The shipment cost $187.50.
This week in 1938, Honolulu residents watched Al Jolson in “The Jazz Singer,” the first feature-length talkie. Seventy-two years later, if you come down tonight, you can see the newest documentary from Frederick Wiseman, “La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet.”