Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph
Although prize fighting was illegal in every state in the Union, boxing was a national obsession. James J. Corbett, the heavyweight champion who had defeated the great John L. Sullivan, was not only a sports hero but a stage star (and, for women, a matinee idol). The Corbett-Courtney fight was far and away the most profitable film subject of the kinetoscope era. Corbett himself received over $15,000 over the course of its commercial life. Not surprisingly, the arrangements for its production and exhibition were special. The Kinetoscope Exhibiting Company was formed to handle boxing films. They arranged to film six abbreviated rounds, each of which lasted about a minute (three times the length of other films taken for the kinetoscope). These were shown in a bank of six over-sized viewing machines. Spectators would pay a nickel to see each round. Corbett played with Courtney in the early scenes but, apparently on cue, knocked out the challenger in the sixth round.