Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 6 (1913): Changes

Thanhouser's remodeled facilities on Main Street were almost complete, and by the end of April the newly-built Glass Palace studio addition was ready for use. A separate area in the building was set up with two projectors as a preview and editing theatre. Charles J. Hite began a move to consolidate various Mutual affiliated companies in the New York City area, and it was announced that the Carlton Motion Picture Laboratories' processing plant would be closed: Note

CONEY ISLAND FACTORY ABANDONED. Beginning at an early date, the new Thanhouser factory at New Rochelle will, in addition to its own work, also handle the thousands of feet of film made by the negatives produced by the Reliance and Majestic studios. As the Thanhouser company has long been noted for its splendid photography, this move will insure the Reliance and Majestic the same high grade of pictures, photographically, that they have been recently releasing. As a result, the large manufacturing plant at Coney Island, which also has a very good daylight studio in connection with it, will be on the market.

By this time Charles J. Hite had just about given up in his attempt to have the City of New Rochelle help finance Thanhouser's new facilities. He approached city officials with another suggestion: with the proper incentive, another film studio, Majestic, would be opened in New Rochelle. Majestic, which had been formed by others in 1911, now was a division of Mutual and was to be infused with a generous dose of Hite enthusiasm, aggressiveness, and expansion ideas. It would be ideal, Hite felt, to have Majestic headquartered in Thanhouser's studio facilities.

However, the city fathers and tradesmen of New Rochelle were no more receptive to paying for Majestic's expansion than they were for financing Thanhouser's revival from the fire. The New Rochelle Pioneer, April 26, 1913, told the story:

MOVIE COMPANY GOES WEST: Failing to receive the support of the merchants in this city, Charles J. Hite has ordered the Majestic Motion Picture Company, of which he is the general manager, to Los Angeles, California, where a large plant and studio are to be erected. The Majestic is one of the Mutual companies that was to have been located in New Rochelle, had the city offered the slightest inducement.

The Thanhouser Film Corporation is the only member of the Mutual combination that will do business in New Rochelle. Lloyd Lonergan, scenario writer for the Thanhouser, leaves in a few days for Los Angeles, where he will have personal charge of the Majestic forces. The Thanhouser California Company, whose leading people are James Cruze, Marguerite Snow, William Russell and Flo LaBadie, are expected home about May 7 to work in New Rochelle. With them will come their favorite cameraman, Carl Gregory, and their director, Thomas Heffron. Director Lucius Henderson is to remain.

More was carried in The New Rochelle Pioneer, May 3, 1913:

Lloyd Lonergan...has left for Los Angeles, California, for a month. He is to direct the construction of a new factory and studio, to be used by the Majestic Film Company, which is to take the place of the Thanhouser Western Company, which returns to New Rochelle on May 7.

Hite's bluff was called when the merchants and officials of New Rochelle did not rally to his aid. Swallowing his pride, he announced that Majestic films would be made in New Rochelle after all (in addition to production at the 651 Fairview Place studio in Los Angeles): Note

A change has taken place in the manufacture of the Majestic brand of films. Hereafter Majestic films will be produced at the Thanhouser studios at New Rochelle. All scenarios intended for production should be sent to Mr. Lonergan at the Thanhouser plant. This leaves the Carlton Motion Picture Studio at 540 West 21st Street producing only Reliance films. The Carlton laboratories at Coney Island have been given up and all the Reliance darkroom work will be done at New Rochelle. Fred Mace will appear in one half-reel comedy a week under the Majestic brand. Note

Still more information appeared in The Moving Picture World, May 17, 1913:

Los Angeles: THANHOUSER COMPANY GOES EAST. The entire Thanhouser company returned East, leaving this city April 30 to take up their quarters in the new studio in New Rochelle. It is reported that the organization will probably return to this city next fall. Meanwhile the studio is to be retained by the Mutual forces. L.J. Henderson, director, and Frederick Vroom, manager, remained behind and are now organizing a new Majestic company to make regular releases. Since the Thanhouser Company took possession of the old IMP studio in Brooklyn Heights soon after arriving here last fall, many improvements have been made. A number of buildings have been erected, and it is now one of the best equipped studios in Southern California.

Fred Mace, who is organizing a company to make Mace Philms, returned from New York on the same day the Thanhouser forces departed, and it was announced that during the next month, while his new studio at Hollywood is being made ready for occupancy, he will put on a series of experimental comedies at the Brooklyn Heights studio, and they will be released under the Majestic brand.

Translated, the above relates that the Thanhouser West Coast experiment was a failure, the players were ordered back to New Rochelle, and the vacant studio in Los Angeles was to be occupied by Majestic (which was subsequently billed as the New Majestic company). Lucius J. Henderson, a key Thanhouser director, was assigned to Majestic, to the detriment of the New Rochelle forces. Lloyd F. Lonergan, a long-term employee, was dispatched to supervise for a month the setup of the Majestic studio there, not because Lonergan was an astute businessman, for he wasn't known as such, but because he was loyal and could be relied upon. In the meantime his brother Philip filled in with the scenario department. Majestic was to have two facilities: one at the former IMP-Thanhouser studio at 651 Fairview Place in Los Angeles, and the other in New Rochelle.

Everyone hoped that with Thanhouser in its new studio at 46 Main Street, New Rochelle, and with its far-flung players now back at home, films of quality would be produced in quantity. Charles J. Hite, a dynamic ball of energy, had a roving business eye and was not content to busy himself solely with the affairs of the Thanhouser Film Corporation and related Mutual Film Corporation activities. As time went on, he investigated numerous other ventures.


Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.