Amusements for All, Page 4


Moving Pictures in a “Rustic Theater”

1902   That summer a “rustic theater” was built at the Lake to show motion pictures every evening from 7:30 until 11. According to the August 7 issue of the Washington Post:  The new building was “roofless which insures a comfortable state of temperature, no matter how crowded the theater may be.  The performance is continuous and the pictures are changed once a week.”  The park charged 10 cents a ticket, as this 1904 display advertisement in the Washington Times.:

The Washington Times,  June 27, 1900, p. 10


It was not until 1906 that the first feature length films were introduced and so, until then, a program consisted of a series of “shorts,” each of about 15 minutes’ or less duration. 


We have only a spotty record of the films being shown, of which the following are a few examples.


1903  In September the season’s last attraction at the Rustic Theater was “Sir Thomas Lipton and the Yacht Races.It was predicted to bring crowds to the theater.


1904   When the Lake opened on Decoration Day, the first screening was of “The Great Train Robbery,” the Edison Studio’s 1903 western, which ran just 17 minutes and is now part of most collections of film classics. According to the studio’s catalog, the movie was  “a sensational and highly tragic story, posed and acted in faithful duplication of the genuine ‘Hold Ups’ made famous by various outlaw bands in the far West…”


Evening Star, June 27, 1904, p.16

In the opening scene of “The Great Train Robbery” two masked men enter the railway telegraph office and force the operator to set the "signal block" to stop the approaching train.  In one scene an outlaw fires directly at the camera.  It was up to the projectionist whether to show this scene at the start or end of the movie.


The featured film for the week of July 18, 1904, was what we would call a documentary. It was produced by American Mutoscope & Biograph and had been shot that May inside the Filipino village at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. Its three scenes showed aborigine men building a house, working on other projects with crude tools and sharing their mid-day meal with the women and children of the village.


Evening Star, July 20, 1904, p. 16.

In August, the theater showed a series on war “especially interesting to those who are following the progress of events in the Far East.” [a reference to the Russo-Japanese War] Washington Times, August 21, 1904.

On the next page, we list some of the Groups and Organizations which held events at Chevy Chase Lake.