Only about half a dozen people in the Los Angeles area owned a TV in 1933. But those handful of early adopting TV geeks were in for a special treat on March 10th of that year when the movie The Crooked Circle was broadcast in its entirety.
That day the campy detective flick became the first feature film ever broadcast on TV when experimental Los Angeles station W6XAO-TV beamed it out from the corner of 7th and Bixel Streets in downtown. The really surprising part? It was still playing in local theaters at the time.
In the early 1930s, TV was the promise of the future. It may have been an experimental toy to many, but a select few saw its potential as a revolutionary new medium. This new medium was hungry for content, and one place to draw from was the movie business.
Astonishingly to those of us here in the year 2013, the movie production company that put out The Crooked Circle (the short-lived Sono-Art World Wide Pictures) heartily encouraged the broadcast. From their perspective, it was great advertising. And creating a little buzz in a community of early adopters during the Great Depression — a time when movies were a popular and affordable form of escapism — couldn’t hurt.
In the early 1930s you couldn’t pop on down to the shop and buy a TV set. They were pretty much the exclusive domain of tinkerers, radio professionals and hobbyists. But it’s amazing to think what that must have felt like to receive a picture — a motion picture! — through the air and into your home while the movie was still playing at the theater just down the street.
Today, movie studios and TV stations alike are battling for eyeballs as the amount of video content available over broadcast and the internet is seemingly endless. But today, just as it was at the dawn of television, it seems the experimenters are the ones most likely to thrive.
You can watch The Crooked Circle in its entirety over at the Internet Archive.
(Image: September 1926 issue of Radio-Craft magazine)