A newsreel is a form of short documentary film, containing news stories and items of topical interest, that was prevalent between the 1910s and the late 1960s. Typically presented in a cinema, newsreels were a source of current affairs, information, and entertainment for millions of moviegoers. Newsreels were typically exhibited preceding a feature film, but there were also dedicated newsreel theaters in many major cities in the 1930s and '40s,[1] and some large city cinemas also included a smaller theaterette where newsreels were screened continuously throughout the day.

By the end of the 1960s television news broadcasts had supplanted the format. Newsreels are considered significant historical documents, since they are often the only audiovisual record of certain cultural events.[2]

"Showdown in Vietnam", a February 8, 1965 war propaganda newsreel by Universal Newsreel.


News cameramen LOC hec 24719
News cameramen, Washington DC, 1938

Created in 1911 by Charles Pathé, this form of film was a staple of the typical North American, British, and Commonwealth countries (especially Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), and throughout European cinema programming schedule from the silent era until the 1960s when television news broadcasting completely supplanted its role. The National Film and Sound Archive in Australia holds the Cinesound Movietone Australian Newsreel Collection, a comprehensive collection of 4,000 newsreel films and documentaries representing news stories covering all major events.

The first official British news cinema that only showed newsreels was the Daily Bioscope that opened in London on May 23, 1909.[3] In 1929, William Fox purchased a former Broadway theater called the Embassy (now a visitor center operated by the Times Square Alliance[4]). He changed the format from a $2 show twice a day to a continuous 25-cent programme, establishing the first newsreel theater in the USA. The idea was such a success that Fox and his backers announced they would start a chain of newsreel theaters across the USA.[5] The newsreels were often accompanied by cartoons or short subjects.

In some countries, newsreels generally used music as a background for usually silent on-site film footage. In some countries, the narrator used humorous remarks for light-hearted or non-tragic stories. In the U.S., newsreel series included The March of Time (1935–1951), Pathé News (1910–1956), Paramount News (1927–1957), Fox Movietone News (1928–1963), Hearst Metrotone News (1914–1967), and Universal Newsreel (1929–1967). Pathé News was distributed by RKO Radio Pictures from 1931 to 1947, and then by Warner Brothers from 1947 to 1956.

An example of a newsreel story is in the film Citizen Kane (1941), which was prepared by RKO's actual newsreel staff. Citizen Kane includes a fictional newsreel "News on the March" that summarizes the life of title character Charles Foster Kane while parodying The March of Time.

On August 12, 1949, 120 cinema technicians employed by Associated British Pathé in London went on strike to protest the dismissal of fifteen men on the grounds of redundancy while conciliation under trade union agreements was pending. Their strike lasted through to at least Tuesday August 16, the Tuesday being the last day for production on new newsreels shown on the Thursday. Events of the strike resulted in over three hundred cinemas across Britain having to go without newsreels that week.[6]


A 1978 Australian film, Newsfront, is a drama about the newsreel business.

Effect of television

On February 16, 1948, NBC launched a ten-minute television program called Camel Newsreel Theatre with John Cameron Swayze that featured newsreels with Swayze doing voiceovers. Also in 1948, the DuMont Television Network launched two short-lived newsreel series, Camera Headlines and I.N.S. Telenews, the latter in cooperation with Hearst's International News Service.

On August 15, 1948, CBS started their evening television news program Douglas Edwards and the News. Later the NBC, CBS, and ABC news shows all produced their own news film. Newsreel cinemas either closed or went to showing continuous programmes of cartoons and short subjects, such as the London Victoria Station News Cinema, later Cartoon Cinema that opened in 1933 and closed in 1981.

In New Zealand, the Weekly Review was "the principal film series produced in the 1940s".[7] The first television news broadcasts in the country, incorporating newsreel footage, began in 1960.[8]

Newsreels died out because of technological advances such as electronic news-gathering for television news, introduced in the 1970s, rendered them obsolete. Nonetheless, some countries such as Cuba, Japan, Spain, and Italy continued producing newsreels into the 1980s and 1990s.[9] Newsreel-producing companies excluded television companies from their distribution, but the television companies countered by sending their own camera crews to film news events.

See also


  1. ^ King, Barrie, Newsreels, Oz Film, Culture and Communication Reading Room, Murdoch University
  2. ^ Australian Screen: Cine sound Movie tone Australian Newsreel Collection (1929 - 1975)
  3. ^ p. 56 Popple Simon & Kember, Joe Early Cinema: From Factory Gate to Dream Factory Wallflower Press 2004
  4. ^ Times Square Alliance Business Improvement District Archived March 4, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Embassy Theater
  5. ^ "Newsreel Theater". Time magazine. November 18, 1929. Retrieved October 31, 2008. The six or seven minutes of newsreel exhibited in ordinary program houses are selected from many reels of current events. Nowhere could one be sure of seeing all the newsreels made in any one week. In Manhattan, William Fox, in collaboration with Hearst Metro tone, found what to do with the newsreels discarded weekly by their companies. He took over a Broadway theater (Embassy) and changed its program from a $2 show twice a day to a continuous 25¢ show. He made the program all newsreels, to run for an hour, a full photographic report of the pictorial parts of the week's news.
  6. ^ "No Newsreels in 300 Cinemas: Technicians On Strike". The Glasgow Herald. August 17, 1949. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  7. ^ "Weekly Review | Series | Short Film | NZ On Screen". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  8. ^ "Early evening news on TV - Television in New Zealand | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  9. ^ "Original Negative of the Noticiero ICAIC Lationamericano". Archived from the original on November 12, 2010. Retrieved November 12, 2010.

Further reading

  • Baechlin, Peter and Maurice Muller-Strauss (Editors), Newsreels across the world, Paris: Unesco, 1952
  • Barnouw, Erik, Documentary: a history of the non-fiction film, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993 revised
  • Clyde, Jeavons, Jane Mercer and Daniela Kirchner (Editors), "The story of the century!" An international newsfilm conference, London: BUFVC, 1998
  • Fielding, Raymond (2011). The American Newsreel: A Complete History, 1911-1967. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 0786466103.
  • Fielding, Raymond, The March of Time, 1935-1951, New York: Oxford University Press, 1978
  • Imesch, Kornelia; Schade, Sigrid; Sieber, Samuel (Editors), Constructions of Cultural Identities in Newsreel Cinema and Television after 1945, Bielefeld: transcript, 2016.
  • McKernan, Luke (Editor), Yesterday's news. The British Cinema Newsreel Reader, London: BUFVC, 2002
  • Smither, Roger and Wolfgang Klaue (Editors), Newsreels in film archives: a survey based on the FIAF symposium, Wiltshire: Flicks Books, 1996
  • Vande Winkel, Roel, "Newsreel series: world overview", in: Aitken, Ian (Editor), Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film, New York/London: Routledge, 2006, pp. 985–991

External links

23rd National Film Awards

The 23rd National Film Awards, presented by Directorate of Film Festivals, the organisation set up by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India to felicitate the best of Indian Cinema released in the year 1975.For 23rd National Film Awards, two new awards were introduced for the short films category for Best News Review and Best Newsreel Cameraman. These newly introduced awards includes Rajat Kamal (Silver Lotus) and a Certificate. Over the years, these two awards are discontinued.

California Newsreel

California Newsreel, founded in 1968, is an American non-profit, social justice film distribution and production company based in San Francisco, California. Their educational media resources include both documentary and feature films, with a focus on the advancement of racial justice and diversity, and the study of African American life and history, as well as African culture and politics. In 2006, Newsreel launched a new thematic focus for their work: Globalization, with an emphasis on the global economy and the international division of labor. Several of California Newsreel's films have been broadcast on PBS.

California Newsreel has produced a small number of films related to racial and economic justice, including Race: The Power of an Illusion (2003), and UNNATURAL CAUSES: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? (2008) a new video series The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation is scheduled for release in 2015.

Castle Films

Castle Films (known as Universal 8 from 1977) was a film distributor founded in California by former newsreel cameraman Eugene W. Castle (1897–1960) in 1924. The company originally produced business and advertising films. By 1931 it had moved its principal office to New York City. In 1937, Castle branched out into 8 mm and 16 mm home movies, buying newsreel footage and old theatrical films for home use. Castle's first home movie was a newsreel of the Hindenburg explosion. That same year, Castle launched his "News Parade" series, a year-in-review newsreel; travelogues followed in 1938. Castle also released sports films, animal adventures, and "old time" movies. The films were sold at camera shops, in department stores, and by mail-order catalog. Castle Films were extensively advertised in national magazines.

Castle obtained home-movie rights to cartoons from several animation studios, including Terrytoons (1938), Ub Iwerks (1941), and Walter Lantz Productions (1947). During World War II it produced numerous documentary and training films for the U.S. armed services. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Castle released a series of 16 mm "Music Albums" assembled from the Soundies musical shorts, combining three 3-minute songs into each nine-minute subject.

Castle Films distributed two dozen Christmas subjects over two decades, the first being Christmas-Time in Toyland (released in 1939) and the last The First Christmas (in 1959). The perennial in this category was The Night Before Christmas, a live-action dramatization of the poem; this 1946 release remained in print for 26 years.

In 1947, United World Films, Inc., the non-theatrical division of Universal Pictures, purchased a majority stake in Castle Films. Castle subsequently became a Universal subsidiary, drawing upon the studio's library of vintage films (with Abbott and Costello, W. C. Fields, Boris Karloff, James Stewart, etc.). The merger with Universal also brought to Castle the Walter Lantz cartoons with Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, Oswald Rabbit, and Chilly Willy. In the 1950s, Castle released a highly successful series of Hopalong Cassidy excerpts, licensed from the series' star William Boyd. When Universal was purchased by MCA Inc. in 1962, Castle also gained access to the pre-1950 Paramount Pictures sound feature films owned by MCA's TV division, releasing sequences from Cecil B. DeMille's spectaculars and Marx Brothers comedies, among other Paramount titles. Newsreels edited from NASA footage of U.S. space flights were timely in the 1960s. Castle's most popular series was its line of science-fiction and horror films, many featuring the Universal Classic Monsters Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Invisible Man. The series launched in 1957 and grew to 30 titles.

Castle Films changed its name to Universal 8 in 1977 and experimented with longer-length films, but the era of home video brought an end to Universal's home-movie enterprise in 1984. Universal 8 dealt mostly in excerpts, but Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (founded in 1980) offered feature films in their entirety on videotape. Collectors abandoned the excerpts in favor of the complete movies.

The complete inventory of Castle Films (more than 1,000 titles over 40 years) is listed in Scott MacGillivray's book Castle Films: A Hobbyist's Guide, ISBN 0-595-32491-6.

The largest U.S. competitor of Castle Films was Official Films, until rival movie studios entered the marketplace, including Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers and United Artists (under the Ken Films brand name), and 20th Century-Fox.

Central Studio for Documentary Film

Central Studio for Documentary Film or CSDF (Russian: Центральная студия документальных фильмов, ЦСДФ) is a Soviet/Russian film studio. It was the largest Soviet newsreel and documentary cinematography studio. Headquartered in Moscow, USSR. Currently known as Russian Central Studio for Documentary Film.

Die Deutsche Wochenschau

Die Deutsche Wochenschau (The German Weekly Review) was the title of the unified newsreel series released in the cinemas of Nazi Germany from 1940 until the end of World War II. The coordinated newsreel production was set up as a vital instrument for the mass distribution of Nazi propaganda at war. Today the preserved Wochenschau short films make up a significant part of the audiovisual records of the Nazi era.

Fox Film

The Fox Film Corporation was an American company that produced motion pictures, formed by William Fox on 1 February 1915. It was the corporate successor to his earlier Greater New York Film Rental Company and Box Office Attractions Film Company.

The company's first film studios were set up in Fort Lee, New Jersey but in 1917, William Fox sent Sol M. Wurtzel to Hollywood, California to oversee the studio's new West Coast production facilities where a more hospitable and cost effective climate existed for filmmaking. On July 23, 1926, the company bought the patents of the Movietone sound system for recording sound on to film.

After the Crash of 1929, William Fox lost control of the company in 1930, during a hostile takeover. Under new president Sidney Kent, the new owners merged the company with Twentieth Century Pictures to form 20th Century Fox in 1935.

H. S. Wong

H. S. "Newsreel" Wong (1900 – March 9, 1981) was a Chinese newsreel photojournalist. He is most notable for "Bloody Saturday", a moment he captured on film during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Wong was also known as Wang Haisheng (Chinese: 王海升) or Wang Xiaoting (Chinese: 王小亭). He owned a camera shop in Shanghai. For capturing moving images he used an Eyemo newsreel camera, and for still photography he used a Leica.

Hindenburg disaster

The Hindenburg disaster occurred on May 6, 1937, in Manchester Township, New Jersey, United States. The German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at Naval Air Station Lakehurst. On board were 97 people (36 passengers and 61 crewmen); there were 36 fatalities (13 passengers and 22 crewmen, 1 worker on the ground).

The disaster was the subject of spectacular newsreel coverage, photographs, and Herbert Morrison's recorded radio eyewitness reports from the landing field, which were broadcast the next day. A variety of hypotheses have been put forward for both the cause of ignition and the initial fuel for the ensuing fire. The event shattered public confidence in the giant, passenger-carrying rigid airship and marked the abrupt end of the airship era.

International News Service

The International News Service (INS) was a U.S.-based news agency (newswire) founded by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst in 1909. In May 1958 it merged with rival United Press to become United Press International.

Krazy Kat filmography

After George Herriman conceived the Krazy Kat comic strip in 1913, the title character began appearing in animated shorts three years later. From 1916 to 1940, Krazy Kat was featured in 231 films. The following is a list of the cartoons released theatrically, separated by studio.


Moldova-Film (Romanian: Moldova-film, Russian: Молдова-филм) is a Moldovan film studio and production company founded in 1952 in the Moldavian SSR.

Movietone News

Movietone News is a newsreel that ran from 1928 to 1963 in the United States. Under the name British Movietone News, it also ran in the United Kingdom from 1929 to 1979.


Newsfront is a 1978 Australian drama film starring Bill Hunter, Wendy Hughes, Chris Haywood and Bryan Brown, directed by Phillip Noyce. The screenplay is written by David Elfick, Bob Ellis, Philippe Mora, and Phillip Noyce. The original music score is composed by William Motzing. This film was shot on location in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Incorporating much actual newsreel footage, the film is shot in both black and white and colour.

Pathé News

Pathé News was a producer of newsreels and documentaries from 1910 until 1970 in the United Kingdom. Its founder, Charles Pathé, was a pioneer of moving pictures in the silent era. The Pathé News archive is known today as British Pathé. Its collection of news film and movies is fully digitised and available online.


Tallinnfilm is the oldest surviving film studio in Estonia. It was founded as Estonian Culture Film in 1931, and was nationalized in 1940 after Estonia was forced into the Soviet Union. During the first year of Soviet Occupation (1940–1941) Eesti Kultuurfilm was taken over by the Communist Party and renamed Kinokroonika Eesti Stuudio (the Estonian Newsreel Studio). In 1942 during the German occupation the studio was renamed Kinokroonika Tallinna Stuudio (the Tallinn Newsreel Studio) and then renamed again as Tallinna Kinostuudio (the Tallinn Film Studio) in 1947 by the Soviets. The Tallinn Film Studio was renamed Kunstiliste ja Kroonikafilmide Tallinna Kinostuudio (Tallinn Feature and Newsreel Film Studio) in 1954 and in 1963 was renamed again Tallinnfilm.During the Soviet era, the studio was the only major movie production house in Estonia, responsible for almost all feature-length movies of the time. (Most of the rest were produced by Eesti Televisioon.)

The most notable feature film produced by Tallinnfilm during the Soviet era was Viimne reliikvia (The Last Relic), released in 1969 by Tallinnfilm. The movie set the absolute box office record for the entire Soviet Union at the time by selling 44.9 million tickets. It was distributed by the Soviet film export internationally in more than 60 countries. Spring (1969) (Estonian: Kevade), directed by Arvo Kruusement, sold 558,000 tickets in Estonia (total population 1.34 million) and in 1971 8,100,000 in Soviet Union.After Estonia regained independence in 1991, Tallinnfilm terminated its production activities and concentrated on the restoration of its film stock and film distribution. Since 2004 Tallinnfilm has acted as an art-house cinema operator. The owner of Tallinnfilm is the Estonian Film Foundation.

Television Newsreel

Television Newsreel was a British television programme, the first regular news programme to be made in the UK. Produced by the BBC and screened on the BBC Television Service from 1948 to 1954 at 7.30pm, it adapted the traditional cinema newsreel form for the television audience, covering news and current affairs stories as well as quirkier 'human interest' items, sports and cultural events. The programme's opening title sequence, featuring a graphic of the transmission mast at Alexandra Palace with the title revolving around it, became a well-known image of the time. The theme tune was "Girls in Grey" by Charles Williams and played by the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra. It was published by Chappell on one of its mood music records - it was not specifically written for the newsreel but composed during World War Two for the Women's Junior Air Corps.

United States Office of War Information

The United States Office of War Information (OWI) was a United States government agency created during World War II. OWI operated from June 1942 until September 1945. Through radio broadcasts, newspapers, posters, photographs, films and other forms of media, the OWI was the connection between the battlefront and civilian communities. The office also established several overseas branches, which launched a large-scale information and propaganda campaign abroad.

Universal Newsreel

Universal Newsreel (sometimes known as Universal-International Newsreel or just U-I Newsreel) was a series of 7- to 10-minute newsreels that were released twice a week between 1929 and 1967 by Universal Studios. A Universal publicity official, Sam B. Jacobson, was involved in originating and producing the newsreels. Nearly all of them were filmed in black-and-white, and many were narrated by Ed Herlihy. From January 1919 to July 1929, Universal released International Newsreel, produced by Hearst's International News Service—this series later became Hearst Metrotone News released first by Fox Film Corporation 1929–1934 and then by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer beginning in 1934.

In 1976, the films' owner, MCA, made the unusual decision to turn over ownership of all of the newsreels to the National Archives. The decision effectively ended Universal's copyright claim, releasing the films into the public domain. Because royalties no longer have to be paid in order to broadcast them, Universal Newsreels have become a popular source of file footage in recent years. The History Channel made them a key part of the TV series Year-By-Year. Also, C-SPAN and CNN regularly use the films for video of events that took place before those networks were founded.

Other U.S. newsreel series included Pathé News (1910–1956), Fox Movietone News (1928–1963), Hearst Metrotone News/News of the Day (1914–1967), Paramount News (1927–1957), and The March of Time (1935–1951).

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.