Metro Film Exchange

In the early years of the film industry, few aspects of the industry were more important than distribution. Film exchanges handled the repair, rental, and advertisement of motion pictures both locally and across geographic regions. Exchanges worked with different production companies to license reels. Their operations could be quite controversial as production companies tried to create exclusivity agreements and prevent piracy. New Orleans exchanges were notorious for not obeying their contracts with Northern producers.

This Metro Film Company Exchange office was a sub-office of the Southern Metro Film Corporation, which held its headquarters in Chattanooga, Tennessee and controlled distribution in all the southeastern states. [1] The Metro Film Company Exchange office was an important regional distributor. Located downtown at 407 Carondelet near Exchange Row and under the leadership of manager Karl A. Bugbee, exhibitors would view films in a private screening and sign rental contracts that stipulated how long the film would be shown and the price of the rental. [2, 3] Metro operated from 1915 to 1917.

K.A. Bugbee served as manager until January 1918 when he resigned and opened a ‘state’s rights’ exchange, a film exchange that usually buys “exclusive territorial rights on films from independent producers, and in turn sell exhibition rights to the theaters, either for a flat price or on a percentage basis.” [4] Moving Picture World noted his resignation by saying that Bugbee “built up the business from an inconsequential volume to one of the strongest film institutions in this territory.” [5] Bugbee was also considered “one of the best-known film men in the south” for his work in the New Orleans film industry. [6]

The Metro exchange distributed many films throughout its existence. One notable distribution in the New Orleans community was the Times-Picayune photoplay feature involving fifteen women from the New Orleans exchange territory who were given “an opportunity to demonstrate their natural talents for the screen.” [7]



407 Carondelet Street, New Orleans LA