Movies Way Back When: Silent Movies and Mood Music

By Betsy J. Green

As silent movies became longer and more complex, so did the music and sound effects that cinemas used. In 1915, a $5,000 “photoplayer” was installed in one of the movie theaters on State Street.

The photoplayer ad boasted that it included “player piano, reed organ, pipes, drums, cymbals, bells, wind siren, locomotive whistle, auto horn, horses’ hoofs, castanets, tambourines, etc.”

The photoplayer here was shipped from Los Angeles in three pieces, and measured 17 feet wide.

Betsy’s Way Back When book — 1919 — is now available in local bookstores and at This is the sixth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at​.


Written by bjgreen

Betsy J. Green is a Santa Barbara historian and author. Her books are available in local bookstores, and at (Shop local if you can.) Learn more at

What do you think?


0 Comments deleted by Administrator

Leave a Review or Comment

Robert Charles Michaels

Rain Advisory for Countywide Beaches