I read this today:

Variety (November 21, 1928) wrote: "Not the first animated cartoon to be synchronized with sound effects, but the first to attract favorable attention. This one represents a high order of cartoon ingenuity, cleverly combined with sound effects. The union brought forth laughs galore. Giggles came so fast at the Colony [Theater] they were stumbling over each other. It's a peach of a synchronization job all the way, bright, snappy, and fit the situation perfectly. Cartoonist, Walter Disney. With most of the animated cartoons qualifying as a pain in the neck, it's a signal tribute to this particular one. If the same combination of talent can turn out a series as good as Steamboat Willie they should find a wide market if the interchangeability angle does not interfere. Recommended unreservedly for all wired houses."

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steamboat_Willie#Release_and_reception

It almost sounds as if they are recommending the 1928 cartoon "Steamboat Willie" to all households which are "wired", painting a picture in my mind of television cables going into early television sets in their homes. But the late 1920s seems far too early for that. Maybe they are talking about some early, small-scale TV test market? Or was "houses" slang for "theatres"? But even if the latter is true, what do they mean by "wired"? Were the cartoons actually "wired" with cables? Surely they got film roll prints physically delivered?

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    $\begingroup$ Footnote on timelines: (1) in 1926 Jack Warner, head of Warner Brothers, stated that "talking pictures would never be [commercially] viable". An agreement between five major Hollywood studios (not including Warner!) to use the same sound technology standard was only signed in 1927. Not all cinemas would have been "wired for sound" only one year later when this article was written. $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Jun 4, 2021 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ note that "houses" is the cool way to refer to "cinemas", in Variety and in that industry generally $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Jun 4, 2021 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ More generally, in the performing arts, “house” refers to a performance venue, i.e. which has a stage and can accommodate an audience; it may also be used to refer just to the audience. By extraction, this would be applied to movie theaters in the same manner as to a regular theater. $\endgroup$
    – user149408
    Jun 6, 2021 at 10:53

2 Answers 2


See this article: Digital History: The Rise of Hollywood and the Arrival of Sound.

It refers repeatedly to "movie houses", and uses the term "wired for sound". these are certainly what the Variety extract is referring to.

Note: I've also seen it hyphenated "movie-house", and contracted "moviehouse".


they mean wired for sound. Previously movies were accompanied by a pianist or organ player.

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    $\begingroup$ In addition - houses could well be an abbreviation for 'movie houses'? $\endgroup$ Jun 4, 2021 at 8:00

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