Two Reeler Definition for Film Enthusiasts

Written By:

Two Reeler Definition for Film Enthusiasts

Film studies represent a unique insight into different styles and types of film from the past. Along with visualizing the various types of film. As well as how film has adapted over the years with changes in technology. You might have heard about one-reelers and two-reeler films. In this two reeler definition for film enthusiasts, we explore the history behind two-reel comedy. And what these silent era films were like.

antique movie reel

Two Reeler Definition

In filmmaking, the terms one reeler, two reeler, or even four reeler, were once widely used. In reference to the number of film reels that were used to display a movie. Each reel held up to 1,000 fee of 35mm motion picture film. Or the equivalent of about 10 minutes of running time. 

Two-reeler films became the standard for some time as the Motion Picture Patents Company attempted to monopolize the film industry from 1909 to 1912.

At this time, they limited the length of even full feature films to just one or two reels. Because they believed that viewers were incapable of appreciating a film that was more than 10-20 minutes long.

Two Reel Comedy

The two-reeler definition would eventually evolve to become the widely accepted term. Tangent to short, silent films that generally represented about 20 minutes of comedy.  Throughout the early days of film, many two-reel comedies were featured in Hollywood.

You might recall one of the most famous two-reel comedies to have been produced for television, The Three Stooges Scrapbook featured on television in 1960, this was the pilot for the long-running television series later released.

How Were Two Reelers Projected?

Two reel comedies, or two reelers, were projected in various ways. Actual theaters would project two reel films from two separate projectors.

They would load both and prepare them, and then start the first one to run for the expected 10 minutes.

Once the first projection was finished, they would immediately start the second projection of the finishing reel.

Smaller Setups

However, two reel films were enjoyed a bit differently by church organizations, at home. Or elsewhere when there was not a double projector setup available.

In these cases, as well as in smaller theaters where only one projector was available for use at a time. The first reel would show. And then, the theater worker or whomever was in charge of the projection would move the dowser and slide the lamp house over.

A slide show would be provided for several minutes, or an intermission would be provided, before the second reel would begin. During that time, the theater worker would be preparing the second reel, loading it into the projector.

Once in place, the lamp house would be moved back, and the film would begin cranking. 

In Summation

The simplest two reeler definition then for film enthusiasts is that two-reelers represent short, twenty minute films that were largely consisting of two-reel short comedies which became incredibly popular throughout the early 1900s.