Cinema: Early Tycoon

In the flickery days of the nickelodeon, a little (5 ft. 5 in.) Hungarian immigrant named Adolph Zukor decided that the way to lure customers into his second-floor emporium in Manhattan was to give them a thrill. Zukor installed a glass stairway under which a waterfall tumbled down over electric lights. It was the movies' first lesson in spectacular salesmanship, and it was Zukor's key to success.

As the years passed, Zukor bought up hundreds of theaters; he imported Sarah Bernhardt's film. Queen Elizabeth, and made an unheard-of profit of $20,000. Then he began...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!