A packed house at The Palace Theater watches newsreel footage of a 1941 speedboat race on Lake Hopatcong.

The Palace Theater steps back in time with newsreel event

NETCONG – The Palace Theater in Netcong took its patrons back in time for a night when it played host to ‘Lake Hopatcong on the Big Screen,’ a compilation of newsreel coverage from the first half of the 20th century.

“These films would be shown as shorts before the main feature back when going to the movies was one of the few ways to get your news,” explained Marty Kane, President of the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum and organizer of the event. “In fact, many of these clips may have originally been shown right in this theater.”

Some of the footage dated as far back as 1918 and was found in various film collections and vaults around the world. Pathé, Fox Movietone, and International Pictures were among the main producers of the found newsreels.

The compilation began with footage from the 1941 boat race championships, with the original sound from the newscast accompanying it. Other clips included natural, unedited background noise and a few had lost or had never included audio to begin with.

The audience was brought further into the past when a clip showed the massive form of one of the Brady ice houses. Just a few hundred feet away, where Tiny’s Tavern should be, lay nothing but a slope of trees.

Both summer and winter sports were covered in the films, ranging from boat polo and water skiing to ice skating and skate sailing. Water skiers braved what looked like homemade jump ramps, some of which were purposely set aflame. Ice skaters flitted across the lake in the shadow of Hotel Breslin and, more than a few times, the Nolan’s Point roller coaster. One long take showed contestants in a 1930s Miss America pageant as they twirled to show off their swimsuits.

Some of the most astonishing footage, though, included that of the 1926 Winter Carnival, which gathered over 10,000 people on the frozen lake to watch every winter sport imaginable. Automobiles dotted the ice behind the crowd, with a few even parked in boat houses. Actor Joe Cook, who once owned a house on the lake, made a surprise cameo when he was shown presenting an award at the games.

“There’s kind of a little bit of everything,” Kane appropriately remarked before the screening, “and we’re excited to get it back on the big screen again!”

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