Soundies were three-minute American musical films, produced between 1940 and 1947, each containing a song, dance, and/or band or orchestral number. Produced professionally on 35mm black-and-white film, like theatrical motion pictures, they were printed in the more portable and economical 16mm gauge.
The films were shown in a coin-operated “movie jukebox” called the Panoram, manufactured by the Mills Novelty Company of Chicago. Each Panoram housed a 16mm RCA film projector, with eight Soundies films threaded in an endless-loop arrangement. A system of mirrors flashed the image from the lower half of the cabinet onto a front-facing screen in the top half. Each film cost 10 cents to play, and there was no choice of song; the patron saw whatever film was next in the queue. Panorams could be found in public amusement centers, nightclubs, taverns, restaurants, and factory lounges, and the films were changed weekly. The completed Soundies were generally made available within a few weeks of their filming, by the Soundies Distributing Corporation of America.
Several production companies filmed the Soundies shorts in New York, Hollywood, and Chicago: James Roosevelt‘s Globe Productions (1940–41), Cinemasters (1940–41), Minoco Productions (owned by Mills Novelty, 1941–43), RCM Productions (1941–46), LOL Productions (1943), Glamourettes (1943), Filmcraft Productions (1943–46), and Alexander Productions (1946). The performers would record the music in advance, and mime to the soundtrack during filming.
The movie-jukebox idea spawned several imitations and variations of the technical design; the most successful of these imitators were the Techniprocess company (led by Rudy Vallee) and the Featurettes company, which used original novelty songs and usually unknown talent (17-year-old Gwen Verdon appears in a couple of the Featurettes, as “Gwen Verdun”). As Soundies quickly became the market leader for jukebox films, the other companies disbanded, and some sold their films to the Soundies concern.
black & white, mono, fullscreen, DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic.