Built in France from spare aircraft parts after world war II, The Scopitone was a coin-operated jukebox that projected 16mm films. After catching on throughout Europe, they were distributed in the USA, and the first music videos were soon being shot exclusively for the format. The machines were most often found in bars, so the content was more risque than what could be found on television, and today serves as an archive of the fading burlesque era. But it never quite found success in the states. This was due to distribution problems with the mafia, and the campy films quickly became dated as psychedelic culture took hold. The machines disappeared by the end of the 60's.

Listen here to a short NPR story about one of the last working Scopitone machines. An enormous archive of films can be seen at this site, which also sells scopitone movies on DVD. It's more rewarding for you to discover some of these gems on your own, but I can't stop myself from posting this superlative film starring the Queen of the Scopitones, Joi Lansing:

(I wrote this for another blog 1.5 years ago, but I'm posting again because it's worth revisiting. This is an exception, not a precedent.)

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