Tally's Electric Theatre

311 S. Spring Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90013

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tovangar2 on March 22, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Tally’s Electric/Lyric/Glockner’s was at 262 S Main in the building directly north of the Liberty theater.

Its Cinema Treasures page is here: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/19875

The building is on the left in this photo of the Liberty: http://lacityhistory.pastperfectonline.com/photo/F8045E02-17CB-432C-BB54-467212534345

One can see it, in the distance, in this 1959 shot (Vibiana’s is on the left margin): http://jpg2.lapl.org/pics26/00047646.jpg

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 24, 2016 at 6:50 pm

Thomas Tally began exhibiting movies in the curtained-off rear portion of his Phonograph and Vitascope Parlor at 311 S. Spring Street on July 25, 1896. In 1899 he moved his operation to 339 S. Spring Street, which was listed as Tally’s Phonograph & Projectoscope Parlor. As far as I’ve been able to determine, neither Spring Street location was ever operated under the name Tally’s Electric Theatre.

Tally’s Electric Theatre opened at 262 S. Main Street on April 2, 1902, and was the first location which Tally operated as only a theater, rather than as an adjuct to his phonograph parlor. It was later known as the Lyric Theatre and finally Glockner’s Automatic Theatre, the name under which it is listed at Cinema Treasures.

More details about Tally’s earliest forays into movie exhibition can be found on this page of Bill Counter’s web site Historic Los Angeles Theatres.

CharmaineZoe on May 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I have a photo of Tally’s I found in an old film magazine. The photo dates from about 1902 or 1903 or even earlier (I notice it has an awning advertising the Great Corbett Fight – This would be James J Corbett when in 1894 he took part in the production of one of the first recorded boxing events, a fight with Peter Courtney. This was filmed at the Black Maria studio at West Orange, New Jersey, in the USA and was produced by William K.L. Dickson. It was only the second boxing match to be recorded.) Unfortunately I am unable to post it here as you are not accepting any more photos, but you can see it on my Flickr photostream, at View link

HughMN on November 5, 2009 at 10:45 pm

The Spring St. address is definitely incorrect. 311 South Spring Street is the address of Tally’s Phonograph Parlour, where Edison Kinetoscopes were indeed projected. But the Electric was first opened in 1902 on So. Main St. A picture of a theater identified as the Liberty Theater may be the same building, though this site gives that address as 266 So. Main. In any event, an advertisement on the front page of the LA Times, Saturday May 10, 1902 reads:
Capture of the Biddle Brothers
NEW YORK CITY IN A BLIZZARD, THE HINDOO FAKIR and many other interesting scenes.
A REFINED Entertainment for
Ladies and Children
Continuous Performance 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
T.L. Tally, Mgr.
Phone John 7191”

nickb on July 30, 2008 at 10:05 am

Buffalo International Film Festival –

Could you direct us to this new research? I’d be interested to see it… Have any pictures surfaced?

Buffalo International Film Festival
Buffalo International Film Festival on July 13, 2008 at 6:31 am

New research has just revealed that Tally’s Electric Theatre was NOT a free standing building: it was part of a larger building. Apparently, it was not a store-front conversion, but a purpose-built storefront.

This now leaves in doubt what the actual first “Theater” built free-standing from the ground up was.

Buffalo International Film Festival
Buffalo International Film Festival on August 31, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Sorry to post this here, but we’ve tried every other way to reach Joe Vogel. Mr. V… if you read this, could you write to us at
BuffaloFilmFestival AT gmail.com ? (substitute @ for AT) Thank you!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 22, 2007 at 9:18 pm

The Electric Theatre at 212 N. Main is listed here as the Roosevelt Theatre, which was apparently the last name under which it operated. I don’t know if Thomas Tally had anything to do with it.

vokoban on August 22, 2007 at 8:46 pm

I just wondered because I can’t find anything on CT about it but it seems to have been around for a long time. It shows up in these city directories:

[1915, 1916, 1920, 1923 LAT, 1930, 1936]

vokoban on August 22, 2007 at 8:44 pm

Does the Electric Theater at 212 N. Main figure into any of this? Does it have a page here?

kencmcintyre on July 30, 2007 at 4:31 pm

The date of the LA Times article was September 16, 1896.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 30, 2007 at 4:11 pm

The problem is not with the definition of the word “theatre”, but with the use of the word “Building.” Edison’s Vitascope Theater in Buffalo, also known as Edisonia Hall, was built in the basement of the Ellicott Square Building building (an immense office and commercial block containing 500,000 square feet, completed in 1896), and was apparently the first commercial use of that basement, but the theatre was not part of the building’s original plans. That’s why all those reliable books don’t consider it the first building built especially to show movies. In fact there were many movie theatres— probably dozens— opened between 1896 and 1902 in spaces tucked into existing buildings, but Tally’s Electric Theatre on Main Street remains the first permanent building in the world known to have been built from the ground up with the intention of using it to house a movie theatre.

The Vitascope Theatre in Buffalo is significant, not only for being one of the first successful movie theatres in the world (it continued in operation for more than a year), but for being the first movie theatre operated by Mitchell Mark who, with his brother Moe, eventually operated dozens of theatres, including their flagship house, the Mark Strand Theatre on Broadway in New York.

Another interesting fact about Buffalo’s Vitascope Theatre is that, Like Thomas Tally’s Spring Street operation of 1896, it was paired with a phonograph parlor. Wikipedia displays an old advertisement for it. However, the buildings which housed Tally’s theatres, both the 1896 Spring Street operation at the back of his phonograph parlor and the 1902 Main Street operation in its purpose-built building, have been demolished, while Buffalo’s Ellicott Square Building still exists, so it’s still possible to get a good look at the storefront which housed Mark’s phonograph parlor, and (if the building’s owners will allow it) the basement space which housed his Vitascope Theatre.

So far, neither the Vitascope Theatre in Buffalo nor Vitascope Hall in New Orleans has been listed at Cinema Treasures.

vokoban on July 30, 2007 at 8:00 am

That’s why I was confused. There are so many books and sites that say it was Tally’s, some of them pretty reliable. But 1896 would predate Tally’s.

savemypass on July 30, 2007 at 7:12 am

Perhaps there is a problem here about the definition of “theater.”

Clearly, there were two dedicated motion picture theaters in existance in 1896.

One in New Orleans opened May 1896, the other in Buffalo, New York opened October 1896.

The first was a building converted specially to show ONLY movies, the second was a theater CONSTRUCTED to show ONLY movies.

This is so many years before Tally’s theater, that one might successfully claim that Tally built the first movie theater in Califnornia, but not in the United States.

vokoban on May 25, 2007 at 7:38 pm

Ken mc…was the date on the last article supposed to be 1906? Or 1896?

kencmcintyre on May 25, 2007 at 5:59 pm

There was a fire on 9/16/96, according to the LA Times:

PHONOGRAPH PARLORS BADLY SCORCHED LAST EVENING. The Fire was Caused by an Electric-light Wife—Vitascope Damaged and Valuable pictures Destroyed.

Fire in Tally’s phonograph parior at No. 311 South Spring street last night did damage to the amount of several thousand dollars in less than a quarter of an Hour.

vokoban on May 8, 2007 at 6:55 am

I color coded that comparison to show what, at least I believe, are original buildings on this square block.

View link

vokoban on May 8, 2007 at 6:07 am

Maybe it only had a one year run. There are continuous ‘Electric Theater’ advertisements up until June 15, 1903 and then it changes to the Lyric Theater:

(July 16, 1903)
LYRIC THEATER-262 South Main St.-
Opens Saturday, July 18th.
Refined Vaudeville…..New Moving Pictures.
Continuous Performance. Admission 10 Cents.

vokoban on May 8, 2007 at 5:53 am

The Electric Theater definitely needs its own CT page, especially if it was the first real movie theater. From the original advertisements it seems as though it was just called ‘Electric Theater’ minus the Tally’s name. Here is an advertisement from 1902 and also a portion of an article about it from 1927:

This is listed under ‘Amusements And Entertainments’, not even under the ‘Theaters’ section of the same page:

(April 19, 1902)
Tonight-See the CAPTURE OF THE BIDDLE BROTHERS, one of the most exciting and realistic Moving Pictures ever shown to the public. A regular VAUDEVILLE of moving pictures, lasting one hour, for TEN CENTS. Continous Permormance 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.

(Jan. 9, 1927)
One of the major milestones in the history of motion-picture development occurred at 262 South Main street, Los Angeles, in the year of 1902. Thomas L. Tally, former owner of a peep show, started a picture theater the first in existence and commenced showing one-reel masterpieces such as “Rescued by Rover,” “The Burglar on the Roof,” “The Life of an American Fireman” and “The Great Train Robbery.” This incident is one of hundreds recorded in the fascinating and dramatic complication by Terry Ramsaye called “A Million and One Nights, a History of the Motion Picture.” Mr. Ramsaye’s work is in two volumes and goes back to the origin of the motion-picture and brings it along its dramatic and varied way up to the present moment. Interesting especially to us of the West is the steadily growing part California played in this development from that time in 1902 when Mr. Tally put up his sign-“Electric Theater-10 cents admission-children 5 cents.”

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 8, 2007 at 5:43 am

This theatre opened as ‘Tally’s Phonograph and Vitascope Parlour’, 311 S. Spring Street in 1896. The room at the rear allowed the audience to ‘Hear New York Stage Song Hits’ and ‘See Living Pictures’ projected on a screen. Adverts proclaimed it as America’s first ‘All Picture Theatre’.

It was such a success that in 1900 it moved to larger quarters at 338 S. Spring Street. One of these locations (311 or 388, I don’t know which?) was the Ramona Hotel and Tally’s Phonograph and Bioscope Parlour was located on the ground floor, to the left hand side of the hotel entrance.

In April 1902 Thomas L. Tally built his Electric Theatre (the first purpose-built for movies theatre in America) which was located at 262 S. Main Street. Tally renamed this the Lyric Theatre in 1904 and by 1910 it was known as Glockner’s Automatic Theatre. I have added it under that name here….

vokoban on May 8, 2007 at 2:10 am

Maybe if we look for photos of Vibiana’s, Tally’s might show up in the photo by chance.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 7, 2007 at 6:25 pm

KenRoe: Thanks for the two addresses for the Liberty. 266 S. Main clears up the puzzle. So vokoban’s Sanborn map shows the location of Tally’s Electric, and the Liberty was just a couple of doors south of it. I was hoping the Liberty building would turn out to have been Tally’s, as it would have made a spectacular first movie theatre. But at least now we know just where to look in old pictures of Main Street for evidence of Tally’s Electric.

vokoban on May 7, 2007 at 3:30 pm

It’s hard to tell from the photos, but after looking at my large images in photoshop on my computer, the 262 address is a parking lot now. The building on the corner of 3rd is apparently the same building but was sliced diagonally to let 3rd flow through when they took the corner off. Unless they built a new building with the exact same footprint minus the diagonal slice it must be the same building since it lines up perfectly with the current photo. The remaining building north a little is getting ready for the wrecking ball from what a few business owners on Main have told me. That will mean that the Cathedral and the 3rd corner building are the only remaining buildings on the whole east side of Main block. The 266 address on the Sanborn map is actually the corner building now which I believe has a 3rd street address now but I’m not positive. If anyone wants a similar overlay of another block or area, let me know.