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Movietone

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Movietone was an early sound-on-film format in use roughly 1927 through 1933 (not to be confused with the "Fox Movietone News" newsreel brand that continued afterward). The term is often used by projectionists as shorthand for a family of similar sound-on-film formats from this era.

Modern prints of Movietone films retain the unique characteristics of the format, unlike modern prints of contemporary early sound films that originated with the Vitaphone sound-on-disc system, which are retrofitted for sound-on-film after the fact and may display cropping and other artifacts.

Aspect ratio

Films with Movietone soundtracks have an image aspect ratio of 1.19:1. These prints must be projected with the correct aperture plate and masking to avoid cropping the image.

Sound considerations

Movietone films are sometimes presented with live musical accompaniment, despite having soundtracks. This is generally done because some Movietone soundtracks include only music or music and sound effects (without dialogue). Historically, theaters that had not yet upgraded to sound would have shown these films with live accompaniment during their original releases.

List of early sound-on-film films

Title Year Director Soundtrack content Sound format Notes
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans 1927 F. W. Murnau Music and sound effects; intertitles with no sound dialogue Movietone Murnau intended the film to play at 100 feet per minute, but must play at 90 feet per minute (24fps) to play the optical track correctly. [1]
7th Heaven 1927 Frank Borzage Music and sound effects; intertitles with no sound dialogue Movietone Rereleased with Movietone sound in the same year as the original silent release.
Street Angel 1928 Frank Borzage Music and sound effects; intertitles with no sound dialogue Movietone
The River Pirate 1928 William K. Howard
Queen Kelly 1929 Erich von Stroheim
City Lights 1931 Charlie Chaplin Music and sound effects; intertitles with no sound dialogue
Tabu: A Story of the South Seas 1931 F. W. Murnau Musical score; intertitles with no sound dialogue
M 1931 Fritz Lang Full sound Tobis Klang Film

See also

  • List of 35mm features released in 1.37 after 1953 - Just as Movietone films occupied a fluid place between sound films and talkies in the exhibition environments of the late '20s and '30s, many films of the mid-1950s occupy a fluid place between Academy Ratio and well-defined widescreen aspect ratios.


Notes

  1. "Inside Stuff On Pictures". Variety, Oct 19, 1927.