Trivia

Hard

The First In-Flight Feature Film Was?

City Lights
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The Lost World
Gone with the Wind
The 1925 movie poster for The Lost World.
First National Pictures/Wikimedia

Answer: The Lost World

It wasn’t long after the creation of commercial aircraft that airlines began racing to distinguish themselves from each other by offering in-flight amenities like food, drink, and more. In the early years of the industry, the name of the game was definitely focused on novelty, and there was little that was more novel than rocketing through the sky while watching a movie.

The first example of an in-flight film appeared in 1921 when Aeromarine Airways, based out of Chicago, showed the short film Howdy Chicago during flights around the city. While being the first example of passengers watching any sort of film reel while aloft, you’ll note that Howdy Chicago wasn’t the answer to today’s trivia. It was a promotional film for a local trade show in the city, making the first in-flight film actually more a very flashy in-flight advertisement.

The first actual in-flight feature film didn’t appear for a few more years until, in 1925, Imperial Airways showed The Lost World—a 1925 silent monster film based on the 1912 Arthur Conan Doyle novel—during a flight between London and Paris.

Despite the initial novelty of watching a film aloft, the practice didn’t catch on for decades. Not only was it difficult to show a movie in an airplane, the general quality of the experience was low (novelty aside) and given how highly flammable nitrocellulose film was, in-flight screenings were inherently dangerous. It wasn’t until the 1960s that in-flight movies gained widespread use, eventually becoming a staple of long flights for the rest of the 20th century.

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