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Created 16 October 2005 ... Updated 25 December 2005

the Celluloid Film Collection
Pathe Baby Film After having bought, cleaned and lubed a movie projector, it was time to try it out. Next question: where to get old cellloid movies. Well, this was as easy as going to eBay and searching for "16mm" and "9.5mm". Of course having no clue on what to buy, what would fit or anything else 'movie', I bought and read some old books on the subject and surfed the web. The following is a discription of what I've found, learnt and liked.

Concise history of film formats

Early last century, standard 35mm film stock was made from highly flamable material. Cinemas and cinema projectors therefore had to be secured thoroughly so that in case the film caught fire, it wouldn't spread. Even under normal circumstances it was easy to start the film burning, when the film got stuck in the projector, the light would not only burn one frame but set the entire film on fire. The film spools were put in metal boxes so that when the film would start burning, it would stop at the metal box, or even when it reached inside the box, it would soon stop burning due to lack of oxygen. That this was a real threat can be seen at the numerous movie theater fires at the beginning of the 20th century and the resulting rules and regulations.
In the building regulations for theaters in Vienna and Lower Austria from 1911 is written:
Die Bauordnungen für das Land Niederösterreich und für Wien 1911:

Hinsichtlich der Lokale für Kinematographen-Produktionen schreibt der Statth. Erl. vom 12. Jänner 1902 vor, daß für die Vornahme der Produktionen der Unternehmer stets ein bestimmtes Lokal namhaft zu machen hat, dessen Eignung im Wege eines kommissionellen Lokalaugenscheines zu konstatieren ist und daß bezüglich dieses Betriebslokales folgende Anforderungen zu stellen sein werden:

a) Der Kinematographen-Apparat muß in einem dem Publikum unzugänglichen Raume aufgestellt werden.

b) Die Lichtquelle für den Projektions-Apparat muß in einem allseits geschlossenen, aus feuersicherem Material hergestellten Behälter untergebracht sein, welcher während der Produktion nicht geöffnet werden darf.

c) Die Zelluloid-Serienbilder sind einzeln in Blechbüchsen aufzubewahren.

d) Für die während der Produktion sich abwickelnden Zelluloidstreifen sind in dem betrefenden Lokale Blechkasten anzubringen, worin dieselben nach erfolgtem Gebrauche sofort zu hinterlegen sind.

e) Der Raum, in welchem der Apparat und die Bilder aufbewahrt sind, darf mit offenem Lichte weder beleuchtet noch betreten werden, und darf in demselben nicht geraucht werden.

f) Im übrigen haben die in der Ministerial-Verordnung vom 7. Dezember 1901, RGBl. Nr. 217, enthaltenen Bestimmungen sinngemäße Anwendung zu finden, und sind die bei Schaustellungen überhaupt, beziehungsweise für den einzelnen Fall platzgreifenden, respektive erlassenen Anordnungen zu befolgen.
Meaning that the film stock for 35mm is not what you want to use at home. So industry started looking for new material and anything they'd found that was not inflamable, was also more expensive and less durable. But for home cinema use, the second issue was not of importance as with the new material, the film can be projected well over a thousand times, a number a normal home user would never be able to reach.

The first issue was more important and to prevent film copiers to use the less expensive 35mm stock when copying their films and then cutting or splitting it into the smaller format, the 16 millimeter format was developed. Cutting perforated 35mm film in half in order to get 2 films was now impossible and since the main film factories agreed to use only non-flamable material for 16mm film, it would always be safe to use this new format at home. This has proven to be a very good sales pitch.
Pathe Baby 9.5mm Film

Ppathé developed the neuf-cinq format (French for nine-five) as home cinema format in the early 1920s. They initially sold a range of projectors, from the cheap, hand-cranked, model to the fully motorized versions. Films were usually short animations or short versions or small parts of standard-length feature films. The format's main advantage over 16mm is that although the actual frame size being close to that of 16mm, it's cheaper to produce. The perforation is actually a single wide hole between each frame. This is a small disadvantage as splicing the film is not as easy as with double perforated film and it's easy to get a twisted film when a single frame burns away. But these might be more theoretical that practical issues. This film format was popular until the late 1950s after which is was taking over by the 8 millimeter format in popularity, simply because the smaller format was cheaper in use. Unfortunately the 8mm went through a number of changes, confusing many people on which format to use during the late 1960s period.

As is the case with other formats, there are also some versions of the 9.5 mm format. The main formats are 'silent' and 'sound', which actually both work on any 9.5mm projector. The so-called "notched" format, is meant to be projected by special projectors. With this format film length is saved by having only one frame for written text. There is a white notch on one side of the frame which makes these projectors stop for a certain amount of time to allowed the viewer to read the text before the movie continues. A clever system but it only works on a few projectors. When such film is viewed using a normal projector, text will only appear for a very short time, too short to be read.

As it turns out, on eBay France and eBay UK are still many 1920s and 1930s Pathé 9.5mm films for sale. These have the disadvantage that they come on closed reels which means you'll have to stop the projector just before the end of the film or you risk tearing the film out of the real. Pretty fiddly to get it back in. Later 9.5mm films usually came spooled on open reels, a lot easier to use. The old black and white Mickey Mouse films in your home, projected on a loud, nearly 70 year old projector are really something special. Closed reels came in limited sizes and popular versions were 30, 60 and 100 feet (9, 18 and 30 meters).

In 1955 some new versions of the format came out. As the wide screen pictures also became popular, or had to become popular, Pathé introduced 9.5 mm-Duplex. The film was split into two halfs, therefore measuring 4,75 mm. The film was then projected 'on its side' with a frame format of 6,5 x 4,2 mm as opposed to the standard 6,5 x 8,5 size. Being projected on its side, a new camera and a projector had to be developed too.

Pathe Baby Film
sixteen millimeters

At the same time Pathé France introduced it's 9.5mm format, Kodak USA did the same with their sixteen millimeter format. This 16mm format remains popular until today. Designed as home cinema format, many public institutions, such as schools and smaller cinemas, had discovered the advantages. Quality is good enough for smaller audiences while the cost is not as high as that for 35mm. The initial format was perforated on both sides and silent. Soon one perforation side had to give way to optical sound. This in return was replaced by magnetic sound by means of a magnetic strip (like audio tape) glued on the film material. After this innovation, optical sound was brought back.

When looking for older 16mm films, make sure it works with your projector. The Ditmar Dual Gauge projector for instance only works with silent 16mm movies. Of course you might be able to remove the notches on the sprockets on one side of the projector's film path but that would be a shame in my opinion, better to by a non-silent projector instead. They come very cheap nowadays as most schools have abandoned 'celluloid' movies and are using DVD and VHS video instead.

film formats compared

The sizes of the various film formats (height x width):
  • 35 mm
      18 x 24 mm
  • 16 mm
      7,5 x 10,36 mm
  • 9,5 mm
      6,5 x 8,5 mm
  • 8 mm (normal)
      3,6 x 4,8 mm
Ozaphan 16mm Film

my collection

Yes another boring list of films, there are so many (DVD, VHS, CD, whatever) lists on the web but this one is different, is a list of old celluloid films. Since many people who are interested in old fashioned celluloid movies seem to be interested in finding _the_ special film they've been looking for for years, they might find it here on my site. You can always drop me a line and I might be willing to swap / sell or whatever just ask me. Contact details are on the main page.
Genre Title Length Publisher Weblink
9.5 mm - silent
Cartoon Mickey Mouse - Mickey Lifesaver 50 feet    
Cartoon Mickey Mouse - Peg Leg Pete 60 feet   IMDb
Cartoon Mickey Mouse - the Barn Dance 50 feet   IMDb
Cartoon Mickey Mouse - On with the Show 60 feet    
Cartoon Mickey Mouse - Touchdown Mickey     IMDb
Cartoon Mickey Mouse - Trader Mickey     IMDb
Cartoon Dwarfs at Play 60 feet Pathescope IMDb
Cartoon Pluto Plays Possom 60 feet   IMDb
Cartoon Felix the Protector 30 feet    
Cartoon Betty Boop's tavern 60 feet Pathescope  
Documentary The Second Great Fire of London 60 feet Pathescope  
Documentary Regatas in Venice 60 feet Pathescope  
Documentary The Coronation Service (Queen Elisabeth 1953) 100 feet Pathescope  
Documentary Swimming under Water 60 feet Pathescope  
Feature The Vagabond Queen, part III 400 feet Pathescope IMDb
Feature Charlie Chaplin - Charlie in the Police 230 feet   IMDb
Feature Eyes Front 60 feet Pathescope IMDb
Feature Fort Robinsoe Crusoe 60 feet Pathescope  
Feature Gunshot 60 feet Pathescope  
Feature Castaways 60 feet Pathescope  
Feature Fetch the Mounties 60 feet Pathescope  
Feature DeLuxe Delivery 50 feet Pathescope  
Feature The Outlaw 60 feet Pathescope  
Feature Spirit Where are You? 60 feet Pathescope  
Feature At Crack of Dawn 50 feet Pathescope  
Feature Alive 60 feet Pathescope  
Home Movie Vienna, Schönbrunn, countryside, swimming 250 feet Pathescope  
Home Movie - 30 feet Pathescope  
16 mm - silent
Feature Abbott and Costello, the Race 200 feet    
Super 8
Feature Charlie Chaplin - The Tramp 24 feet   IMDb
Feature Charlie Chaplin - On the Farm 24 feet    
I don't have a 35mm projector but it's great to scan some frames of trailers and film strips.
You can find some frames here.

links Celluloid Film web links
links Grahame Newnham
links This site's main purpose is to feature / promote the Pathé 9.5mm home
links movie gauge. Also home of the on-line magazine specialising on 9.5mm and
links a list of all Disney cartoon that appeared on this format.

links Anthony Saffrey
links Extensive information about the Pathescope 9.5mm film format

links Robbies Reels
links The wonderful world of 16 mm film collecting.

links Paul Ivester
links Paul's 16mm Film Collection including a wealth of information about
links storing and preserving films and many interesting links.

All photos copyright of M. Koning 1997 - 2005

Note: Using the text or images on this site in an auction such as eBay without permission is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service. I will report you to ebay if I discover such a violation taking place. This may result in your account being cancelled. I also reserve the right to file claim for civil penalties.