The successor to Industrial Moving Picture Company
Rothacker Film Manufacturing Co.
Chicago's largest and best film processing company and industrial film maker
223-233 W. Erie St.
1339-1351 Diversey Pkwy.
Active dates: 1910-ca 1941
Rothacker Film Manufacturing Company was not only Chicago's largest and longest lasting and most prolific film processing labs, it was the larest outside Hollywood and New York. It was also Chicago's largest non-fiction film production company, specializing in non-theatrical industrials & advertising films, newsreels, and educational films. Occasionally they also venture into fictional narrative.
Originally formed as Industrial Motion Picture Company, it launched in December 1909 by owners Waterson Rockather (1885–1960), R.H. Cochrane, and Carl Laemmle (1867-1939), who would later go on to found and preside over Universal Pictures (yes, that Universal) for many years. In 1913, Waterson Rothacker bought out Carl Laemmle, who turned his attention to his Hollywood and Fort Lee Universal studios and his many other business interests. Laemmle went on to buy out many other small production companies and studios and consolidate at his massive Universal City studio outside Hollywood.
In 1910 Industrial Motion Picture Company built its first studio at 1339-1351 Diversey Pkwy. It had substantial studios and lab facilities and was one of the most modern facilities of the day. They made movies by contract for corporations and advertisers, and rented out their stages to independent production companies.
In 1916 the Industrial Motion Picture Company officially changed its name to Rothacker Film Manufacturing Company and built a second studio. The plant on Erie St. was an an air conditioned 7,000 square feet and included a shooting stage and a large, well respected film processing lab for developing negatives and producing prints for distribution. It ran 12 printing machines and had a drying room that could handle 10,000 feet of film at one time.
The Diversey Parkway location appears, by looking at maps of the era, to be the larger of the two facilities, and had at least one large shooting stage measuring 125' by 52' and was 25 feet high. It could handle six sets simultaneously. They used it for their own productions as well as renting it out to other companies. They also provided lab and printing services here.
It appears that about this time the two plants existed simultaneously and under two names: Rothacker Film Manufacturing Company and Industrial Motion Picture Company. There was a point when they dropped the Industrial name, but it is not clear when that was. Many film making companies who did not have labs of their own turned to Rothacker and Industrial for services.
In 1921 Waterson Rothacker relocated to Hollywood and partnered with Joseph Aller to form Rothacker Aller Film Lab, one of the most prestigious film processing companies in Hollywood. The Chicago business was left in the capable hands of Douglas Rothacker, Waterson's younger brother.
In 1925, after leaving Rockather Aller, Waterson Rothacker became the general manager of First National Pictures, the Burbank studio bought by Warner Bros. a few years later. There Rockather's main claim to fame was as co-producer of the pioneering special effects film "Lost World" from a novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Rothacker Film and Rothacker Aller processed the negatives and produced release prints.
A 1940 article in the "Educational Screen" journal suggests a third plant was built in 1926 on Ashland Ave., but I find no further references about it.
Rothacker Film Co. closed its doors in ca 1941.