The September 13, 1922 issue of Golden Age carried the following advertisement for the Kinemo Kit Corporation. They had produced three films (and a projector to match) which could be bought by Bible Students to show films in homes and small gatherings.
The managing director of Kinemo was George Chester Driscoll (1858-1941). He had previously managed the Pastor Russell Lecture Bureau and was one of the Bible Students involved in the Mena Film Company’s film Restitution (1918) that featured on this blog a few weeks ago.
In the August 15, 1920 Watchtower, it was announced that after a month long tour of Britain, J F Rutherford would visit Europe, and then “he will also go to Palestine and Egypt, and will be accompanied to Athens, Palestine and Egypt by Brother Driscoll and other brethren with a moving picture apparatus for the purpose of making moving pictures of actual scenes of...things of Biblical interest.” The results would be used for witnessing, and readers would be able to purchase both films and special projector in due course.
The October 1, 1921 Watchtower announced that the films had been duly made and exhibited in standard format at a number of locations, and now the Kinemo Kit Corporation (with Driscoll as manager) would handle orders for films and projectors. The Watchtower commented: “While the Society cannot engage in the manufacture and sale...yet it is the desire of the Society that every possible means for teaching the truth be employed.”
There was then quite a delay - nearly a year - before the above advertisement for films and projectors appeared in the September 13, 1922 Golden Age. Public showings in 35mm had obviously continued in the meantime because according to a report in the New Era Enterprise for May 30, 1922, a 5-reel version of the Palestine film and a 3-reel version of the Imperial Valley film were shown to a full house of 1500 at a convention session at Moose Hall, Philadelphia, on April 14, 1922. At the famous September Cedar Point Ohio convention the films were shown out of doors in the grove on a large screen, along with a tantalizing supporting feature. According to the New Era Enterprise for October 31, 1922: “The pictures included views of the Bible House and other organization buildings and offices in Brooklyn, the Bethel Home, etc., the printing and binding of booklets and pamphlets etc.” Now that would be footage worth discovering.
When the Golden Age advertised the Kinemo films and projectors, George Driscoll wrote a two page article in the same issue about the project entitled “Visualizing Fulfilled Prophecies”. Most of the article is about technical issues. The films were on safety stock rather than nitrate, which meant you did not need a fireproof booth for the projectionist, and there was little danger of an audience being burnt to a cinder in the privacy of their own homes.
It was planned to add further films to the initial three, but nothing more appeared in the Watchtower or Golden Age, and only one more advertisement appeared in the pages of the Enterprise. In the October 3, 1922 issue the Instructo Cinema Services of Chicago offered a 400 foot reel of highlights of the Cedar Point convention, to be used with the Kinemo equipment. The advertisement was reprinted in the November 28, 1922 issue. Again, that would be footage worth discovering if it still exists.
Below are some frames from two of the original Kinemo films. First is the film on Palestine, which concentrated on the Jews returning to the land, and, as they saw it, fulfilling prophesy.
J F Rutherford is seen boarding the latest in airplane technology.
Then surveying the horizon
...and visiting an estate manager's office.
And next some frames from the film on the Great Pyramid, showing J F Rutherford exiting from the pyramid. It was obviously rather hot in there.
So what happened to Kinemo? There is evidence that Driscoll ceased fellowship with the IBSA at some point. But probably the biggest problem was the size of film used. Kinemo used a special system of 17.5mm film stock - basically standard 35mm split down the middle. (Much like the amateur gauge of standard 8mm was 16mm stock split down the middle with extra sprocket holes added.) Kinemo films needed their own special projector to show them. And in 1923 the 16mm gauge was introduced for small audience projection, which soon took over and blew 17.5mm out of the water. (Between 1923-1925 the Enterprise ran a number of small ads from Kinemo owners who were now trying to sell on the equipment and films.) When Pathe in France tried to reintroduce 17.5mm film in the late 1920s, it was not compatible with earlier versions, and soon died the death again. And by the 1930s the Watch Tower Society was no longer teaching that literal Israel or the Great Pyramid fulfilled prophesy, so the subject matter would only appeal to Bible Students outside of the IBSA.
Moving pictures bring the past to life. It is hoped that modern audiences may one day be able to see some of these early attempts in the wake of the Photodrama to use the medium of film to spread their message.