723 7th Ave., New York City, opened in 1921 to the following acclaim in Architecture and Building, vol. 53, no. 3, March 1921, "Robertson-Cole is the first film distributing company to occupy its own home office building. It is also the first company which houses all the executive and administrative branches of its business in the East in the same building. Work on the new structure was begun late last spring. Of the thirteen floors in the building, six are occupied by Robertson-Cole. The rest will be rented to various commercial concerns. The building is Number 723 Seventh Avenue, on the northeast corner of 48th Street, and has a frontage of sixty-seven feet on 48th Street and fifty feet on Seventh Avenue. Its exterior is of brick, and the greatest care has been exercised in the entire construction to prevent the possibility of fire. ... Robertson-Cole occupies the building as follows: On the eighth floor is situated the Robertson-Cole New York Exchange, which distributes film for this territory. On the ninth floor are situated various clerical offices. The tenth floor is devoted to the executive offices, including those of R. S. Cole, head of the organization, and of A. S. Kirkpatrick, vice-president and general manager of the Robertson-Cole Distributing Corporation. On the eleventh floor are situated the Robertson-Cole Distributing Corporation offices and offices of the publicity department and those of the auditing department. On the twelfth floor the foreign department of Robertson-Cole has its offices. On the Seventh Avenue side of this floor are situated two theatres where motion pictures will be projected for the pleasure of buyers and for the purposes of the executive officers. ... F. H. Dewey & Company are the architects of this building and Wharton Green & Company are the builders. ..."
The Robertson-Cole Co. is described as follows in The New Historical Dictionary of the American Film Industry, by Anthony Slide, 1998: "Robertson-Cole Company was an importer and later producer/distributor out of which came RKO. Indeed, the RKO studios were the former Robertson-Cole studios, which the company built in 1921 at the junction of Gower Street and Melrose Avenue in Hollywood on 13.5 acres of land that had previously been owned by the Hollywood Cemetery. Robertson-Cole was formed by the English-born Harry F. Robertson and the American Rufus Sidman Cole as an import/export company for which films were a sideline to Rohmer automobiles. Among the first films acquired by the company were His Birthright and The Temple of Dusk, both produced in 1918 by Haworth Pictures Corporation and starring Sessue Hayakawa. Robertson-Cole continued to distribute Haworth/Hayakawa films through 1920, initially through Exhibitors Mutual Distributing Corp. and later through Robertson-Cole Distributing Corporation. ... After the building of its studio, Robertson-Cole entered production, with its first Hollywood feature being Kismet, starring Otis Skinner in a recreation of his famous stage role. (The first Robertson-Cole production was actually The Wonder Man, shot at the former Solax studios in Fort Lee and starring George Carpentier.) Both Kismet and The Wonder Man were released in 1920, with the interior scenes being shot at the Haworth Pictures studios. In 1922, Robertson-Cole became Film Booking Offices of American (FBO), which was the immediate predecessor of RKO."
Patrick Anthony Powers (1869/1870?-1948) was briefly (1923-1924) in charge of production at the Film Booking Offices of America studio on Gower St. in Hollywood. Pat Power's company called Powers Film Products was first listed at 723 7th Ave., New York, in 1922. There it shared space with Robertson-Cole Distributing Corp. and FBO (the Film Booking Offices of America) through 1927. In 1928 the Powers Cinephone Equipment Corp. was listed at this address. This was an early optical sound system (i.e., sound-on-film) that was used on Erich von Stoheim's The Wedding March (1928). Later that year the Cinephone system was used on Walt Disney's Steamboat Willie (1928) and three other Disney cartoons. Powers also did the distribution of these early Disney cartoons, through his company called Celebrity Pictures. Apparently, however, Powers defrauded the Disneys of much of the income from these distributions. (The story is told in some detail in Disney's World: A Biography, by Leonard Mosley (1985). See the google books version.)
Powers' obituary in the New York Times, 1 Aug. 1948, read, "Patrick A. Powers, motion picture executive, died last night in the Doctors Hospital, 170 East End Avenue, after a brief illness. His age was 79. He maintained homes here and in Westport, Conn. Mr. Powers, who had been identified with the motion picture industry for many years, formerly was president of the Powers Film Products Company of Rochester, N. Y., and also was treasurer of the Universal Motion Picture Company. He also had served as treasurer of the National Association of the Motion Picture Industry. He is survived by his daughter, Mrs. Roscoe M. George of San Fernando, Calif., and a sister, Miss Mary Ellen Powers of Buffalo."
Patrick Powers' birthdate is usually given as 8 Oct. 1870, County Waterford, Ireland. Some documents, however, indicate the year was 1869. These include the 1900 U. S. Census, which has 1869. Also, his grave marker, available on findagrave, reads clearly 1869-1948. The Internet Movie DataBase also has the year as 1869.
An advertisement for the film Damaged Hearts distributed by the Film Booking Offices of America at 723 7th Ave. appeared in Motion Picture News vol. 24, no. 10, 8 March 1924.
An advertisement for the Powers Cinephone appears in the google book version of The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1926-1931, by Donald Crafton.
The Robertson-Cole Building became the Powers Building early in life. This ad for Powers Film Products appeared in Motion Picture News vol. 24, no. 14, 3 April 1924. It has the address Powers Building / Cor. 48th St. & Seventh Ave.
Copyright © 2014 Walter Grutchfield