In the early days of the last century, a revolution took place in the way the average person learned the news of the day. Instead of relying exclusively on the printed newspaper, people were able to go to their neighborhood movie theater to review the sights—and later the sounds—of world events. It was the beginning of the era of the newsreel, which changed forever how individuals obtained information.

From the early teens through the late 1960s, newsreels were an integral part of motion picture exhibition in America. Most newsreels ran for about eight minutes and included stories of international, national and local interest. Although the newsreel appeared only twice a week, what it lacked in timeliness it more than made up in intensity. The newsreel fired viewer’s imaginations by providing moving pictures, sounds and commentary that brought the news to life. The newsreel provided—as had the photograph before it—a record of events to be studied by future generations, and also laid the foundation for contemporary broadcast journalism.

The Hearst Metrotone News Collection (Hearst Collection) contains the extant footage from various newsreel series produced by the Hearst Corporation (Hearst). The media magnate William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951) was a pioneer in tabloid journalism. His newspapers used a potent mixture of short, often sensational reports, many large illustrations and a high percentage of “human interest” stories. The new, extraordinary vivid medium of newsreels was particularly well suited to this style. Hearst began regular newsreel production in 1914 with the release of the Hearst-Selig News Pictorial, the first news short to bill itself as a “news reel.” Unfortunately, little of this early footage survives. The materials in the Hearst Collection are mainly drawn from those theatrically released series produced between 1919 and 1967, and newsfilm produced for television in the 1950s and 1960s. Major components of the collection include:

International News / International Newsreel (January 1919 through July 1929): Issues of this series were released twice-weekly and went by both titles listed above. Out of an estimated million feet of newsreel material released during its ten-and-half year run less than 100,000 feet survives today. The International News Corporation produced these films, which were then distributed by Universal Pictures.

MGM News (August 1927 through July 1929): For several years, Hearst produced two different newsreel series: one distributed by Universal Pictures, and the other by MGM. One of these series was MGM News (perhaps known best today as the company Buster Keaton worked for in the 1928 film THE CAMERAMAN), which was released twice-weekly. Less than 20,000 feet are known to survive.

MGM International Newsreel (July 1929 through May 1930): This series was initiated when Hearst ceased production of the silent newsreel series distributed by Universal. The titles International Newsreel and MGM News were combined to create MGM International Newsreel, and the volume and issue sequence from MGM News was continued. About 10,000 feet survives.

Hearst Metrotone News / News of the Day (September 1929 through November 1967): Hearst started production of sound newsreels in partnership with Fox in September 1929, simultaneously producing both Hearst Metrotone News and Fox Movietone News. In October 1934, the Fox-Hearst partnership was dissolved, and Hearst continued production of sound newsreels through the Hearst Metrotone News Corporation. In November 1936, bowing to increased public criticism of William Randolph Hearst, the name of the series was changed to News of the Day. The series was released twice-weekly by MGM and nearly all the issues up to 1967 survive today. These issues, along with unreleased footage accumulated during their production, make up the bulk of the Hearst Collection.

Telenews (ca. 1954 through 1962): Telenews, a syndicated newsfilm service for television, was a part of the Hearst newsreel enterprise from roughly 1954 through 1962, and often shared material with the News of the Day series.

Special Productions: On occasion, Hearst would produce a special film that was not part of any regular series. The Hearst Collection contains several examples of these productions.

In 1981, the Hearst Corporation donated the Hearst Metrotone News Collection to the University of California. The collection—housed at the UCLA Film & Television Archive—consists of over 27 million feet of footage chronicling events in all areas of life from 1915 into the 1970s, and includes both released and unreleased footage. The released footage consists of those newsreel stories produced and distributed theatrically under one of the series titles noted above. The unreleased footage consists of the raw footage that was cut from (outtakes) or never included in (vault material) a released newsreel, but considered valuable enough to be kept as part of Hearst’s footage library.

The Hearst collection consists of more than just motion picture film. It also includes an extensive cross-indexed card catalog providing specific subject access to the footage in the collection; a set of synopsis sheets giving a complete listing of the stories found in each released newsreel; and disposition “dispo” logs recording when footage was received at Hearst’s offices, along with other information. Taken as a whole, the footage in the Hearst Collection, along with its accompanying documentation, constitutes a compelling resource for studying the fabric of life during much of the twentieth century.