August 9, 2022
7/19/1961: TWA Introduced the World’s First Inflight Movie 
History

7/19/1961: TWA Introduced the World’s First Inflight Movie 

DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Trans World Airlines (TWA) introduced the world’s first scheduled inflight movie on a flight between New York and Los Angeles in 1961.

The movie ‘By Love Possessed,’ which starred Lana Turner, was shown to first-class passengers on board the Boeing 707. 

The first movie ever shown on an aircraft was ‘Howdy Chicago’ onboard a hydroplane at the Chicago Pageant of Progress. Photo: Motion Picture News, Inc.; photograph likely to be from Rothacker Film Company, which staged the screening, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Three Years Testing


Cinema owner and film buff David Flexer had been investigating how to bring movies onboard aircraft since 1956. He later told Life Magazine how, after a transcontinental flight, he had realised that “Air travel is the most advanced form of transportation and the most boring.”

This led to three years of testing and development to see if he could put films on to single reels and create a projector that could withstand turbulence while being light enough not to add any weight to the aircraft. 

Flexer’s engineers were unconvinced and told him it couldn’t be done. But after investing US$1 million, Flexer had proved them wrong, developing a 16mm film system with a 25-inch reel mounted horizontally to maximise space. His new company Inflight Motion Pictures was ready to take flight. 

Early IFE onboard a Pan Am Boeing 747. Photo: panam.org

Staying Ahead of the Competition


At this time, airlines were competing for business on their transcontinental services, and TWA was the first to agree to test out the equipment. The feedback was impressive, and passengers were soon flocking to the airline to experience the joys of a movie at 35,000 feet. 

This caught the attention of TWA’s rivals, and soon Pan Am began to offer the service to its passengers. In 1962 Pakistan International Airlines became the first international carrier to introduce the entertainment system.


Featured Image: Today, in-flight entertainment screens are a staple of air travel. Photo: Virgin Atlantic.

editor
Writer, aviation fanatic, plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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