The Marvel Theatre was a 400-seat Vaudeville house and cinema located on the 300 block of 20th Street North, near 3rd Avenue in the early 1900s. It was associated with the national Marvel Theater Company chain.
J. T. Amberson worked as a motion picture operator there beginning in 1905, when hand-cranked projectors were used and the film unspooled into a burlap sack before it was re-wound onto the reel. The Marvel company introduced the first "talking pictures", filmed using the "Cameraphone" system developed by J. A. Whitman, in which the film reels were shipped with a phonograph record. Birmingham was only the second city after New York to screen those pictures, which brought packed houses. The records were impossible to keep synchronized with the hand-cranked projectors, though, and the technology subsided until soundtracks reappeared on the film reels themselves in the 1920s.
- "The Talking Pictures (December 8, 1907) The Montgomery Advertiser, p. 14
- Luckie, Bob (July 21, 1940) "About Birmingham: Talking Pictures Show Great Improvement Over Hand-Cranked Variety 35 Years Ago" The Birmingham News - via Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections