Ray-Bell Films, 823 University Avenue, Saint Paul, Minnesota

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Ray-Bell Films

Address: 823 University Avenue W
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Ramsey County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Historic Function: Motion Picture Company
Other Historic Function: Motion Picture Company
Current Function: Restaurant
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick

Saint Paul Ramsey

In 1908 Charles Bell was working as a projectionist in Seattle. In that same year he moved to Saint Paul to operate his own theater. He gave up that idea the next year to work for Otta N. Rath’s Gayety Theater. At the Gayety Theater Bell became aware of the Northern Pacific Railroad’s need for scenic footage. Bell partnered with Rath and Edward Seavolt to form a production company that shot and developed publicity footage for the Northern Pacific Railroad. In the following decades the Raths-Seavolt Film Manufacturing Company (later called Raths-Mills) shot over 100,000 feet of publicity footage for Northern Pacific.

In 1915 Reid Ray joined the company as a camera technician. Reid Ray gained production experience while at Iowa State where he worked for the athletic department. Reid Ray was a pioneer of sports cinematography: He was the first person to capture motion picture footage of football games for the purpose of coaching and training.

By the 1930s, when the Minnesota Historical Society images of 823 University Avenue were taken, Charles Bell and Reid Ray were the only partners left, and the firm was called Ray-Bell Films. During WWII Ray-Bell Films produced more films for the Office of Education than any other film company. By the middle of the century, with its origin in 1910 as Raths-Seavolt, Ray-Bell Films was the oldest commercial filmmaking company in the United States. The company was eventually called Reid Ray Film Industries, and this page contains a link to the Reid Ray Film Industries campus at 2269 Ford Parkway. The Ford Parkway building has been demolished, but this building at 823 University can be seen today.


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