The so-called silent movies rarely lived up to their name. Here's a high-tech gizmo called a Photoplayer that supplied music and sound effects in Santa Barbara, California's Palace Theater at 904 State Street in 1915. This one cost $5,000. In addition to playing music, the operator flipped switches to change the tone of the sound, and create special effects such as pipes, drums, cymbals, bells, siren, locomotive whistle, auto horn, horses' hoofs, castanets, tambourines, etc. The Photoplayer measured 17 feet wide.
As time went on, these photoplayers morphed into even fancier and more sophisticated theater organs such as the 1928 theater organ that lives in the orchestra pit at our Arlington Theatre. This organ rises out of the floor every so often to accompany a silent movie thanks to the SB Theatre Organ Society.