Newsreels were typically featured as short subjects preceding the main feature film into the 1960s. There were dedicated newsreel theatres in many major cities in the 1930s and 1940s and some large city cinemas also included a smaller theatre where newsreels were screened continuously throughout the day.
Created by Pathé Frères of France in 1908, 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. Nonetheless some countries such as Spain continued producing newsreels into the 1980s.
The first official British news cinema that only showed newsreels was the Daily Bioscope that opened in London on 23 May 1909. In 1929 William Fox purchased a former Broadway theatre called the Embassy. He changed the format from a $2 show twice a day to a continuous 25 cent programme establishing the first newsreel theatre in the USA. The idea was such a success that Fox and his backers announced they would start a chain of newsreel theatres across the USA. 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 February 16, 1948, NBC launched a 10-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 INS Telenews, the latter in cooperation with International News Service. CBS started their evening TV news program with Douglas Edwards and the News also in 1948. 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.
- List of newsreels by country
- The March of Time newsreel series produced by Time-Life from 1935 to 1951
- Universal Newsreel newsreel series produced by Universal Studios from 1929 to 1967
- Hearst Metrotone News newsreel series produced by Hearst Corporation from 1914 to 1967 (distributed by Fox Film Corporation 1929-1934 and by MGM 1934-1967)
- Fox Movietone News produced by Fox 1928 to 1963
- Paramount News newsreel series produced by Paramount Pictures from 1927 to 1957
- Pathé News newsreel series produced by Pathé Film from 1910 to 1956 (later distributed by RKO Radio Pictures 1931-1947 and then Warner Brothers 1947-1956)