I wonder whether they were all ganged up to see (and hear) their first "talkie."
"Talkies" we're still about 12 year into the future when this photo was taken. Judging from the marquee picture I'd say it's the release of "The Return of Draw Egan" staring William S. Hart, 1916.
I think Singing in the Rain was about talkies.
1926, I believe.
Aaron..... yes, the transition from "film" to talkies..... as the films of the day often had a live orchestra acompliment, so they weren't really "silent", were they ???? "Singin' in the Rain" was released in 1952. Long live Vitaphone !!!!
There was a talkie titled "Broadway", released about 1928, with full length sound and music, I believe using the sound on film system unlike the early Vitaphone sond on record that was syncronized with the film.
1927 - 1928 seems to be the transition period from silent to talkies. The General and Wings were among the last of the silents in that time period. Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer was one of the first talkies.
Our historic theatre in Oroville opened April 7, 1928 with a "silent" film (Partners In Crime), but the talkies were known to be on their way, so the Theatre Pipe Organ was downsized during construction. (How do I know that? Well the second pipe chamber was started, but not finished & the organ installed was smaller than that usually put in a theatre our size--we are in the process of installing one now).
A Vita-phone system was installed in 1929!
As Bob mentioned "Silents" weren't really silent, just the actors were--which is why the RECORDED sound films were called "Talkies" as the actors actually spoke. Even today's films rely on music to set the mood (Star Wars theme, etc.), but that music is pre-recorded, in the "silent" period, it was usually done Live--although a really small theatre might have a couple of Gramophones (record players) if they couldn't afford even a piano player! Most houses had Theatre Pipe Organs, but the big city ones had Orchestras (and usually a Theatre Pipe organ for the "off hours" shows).
Thomas is correct 1927 credit for the first "talkie" was Al Jolson in the "Jazz Singer".
Like Dave Dewey mentioned, the early talkies were in most part "silent films' with recorded music accompaniment. Even the "Jazz Singer" was only about 40 per cent synchronized speech and singing.
Movie moguls were very wary of the onset and acceptance of the spoken word in movies since it would narrow the distribution of those films in foreign countries that did not speak English. Eventually scenes were re-done with other actors in the language of that film's distribution.... which added to the production costs and possible less profit to the studio.
There were many attempts at synchronizing picture & sound, perhaps 20 years before the acceptance of the "Jazz Singer", but due to electronic invention and advances made at least one of the systems, Vitaphone--- between the Western Electric co. and the Warner Bros, did the public find acceptance in sound amplification.
Jolson was billed as the "World's Greatest Entertainer".... and his ego was even greater...that's another story.
The Talkies came along at a bad time for a lot of theaters. The depression began with the stock market crash of 1929. Many rural movie theaters could not afford to install the sound equipment. As late as the mid-1930s many theaters were still running the films without sound. Several movies were released with both sound and silent versions. Some were released as a silent film and then re-released with sound a couple of years later. Also, Charlie Chaplin insisted on making silents for several more years. "The Great Dictator" was released in 1940. It had a sound track but it was only music and sound effects with no talking.
I hadn't thought about what Rick brought up regarding the expense of updating projection equipment, etc. Not unlike what has just happened with the demise of Film distribution--it's now done digitally, and many small theaters cannot afford the cost of upgrading to the new system--a minimum of around $50,000 per projector. Sony even had a contest for folks to name their favorite Drive In and why it should get the new system. I think they gave away 10 or 20 systems to some small-family-run places that were going to have to shut down with them.
Movie theaters are, for the most part, struggling to survive today, what with all the optional ways of seeing new movies now.
DeSoto, Missouri went through that last year. Their one theater, the Melba, was in danger of closing because they couldn't afford to upgrade to the new digital system. Fortunately, the town and surrounding area took up a collection and was able to raise the money required for the upgrade.
The cars in front of the theater are parked so closely together that their wheels overlap.