Simplified History of Educational Film Producers

In the heyday of the 16mm educational film, which I will estimate as from the mid 1930's through the mid 1980's, There were many different companies and independent producers making films for classroom use.  I will attempt here to list a sample of the many producers of these films.  I make no claim to be an expert on this subject, the information presented here is based on having viewed many of these films, from catalogs and books, from other internet articles, as well as general hearsay and rumor.  Please feel free to contact me with corrections and more information.

If you want to read more about some of these companies, Ken Smith's book "Mental Hygiene" is an amusing guide to the social guidance films.  Some of the information in this article is plagiarized from this book.

Coronet Films was one of the most the most prolific producers of educational films.  The company was started in 1946 by David Smart, founder of Esquire magazine.  Many of the classic social guidance films were made by Coronet.  Most Coronet films used synchronous dialog at a time when the other producers were using voice-overs.  The films usually featured kids of the target age of the films.  There is more about Coronet in "Mental Hygiene".

In additon to the chapter in "Mental Hygeine", Chicago Magazine had an article about David Smart and Coronet Films.  Last time I checked it was at:

Encylopaedia Britannica Films made a very large number of films.  They were created in the late 1940's by the acquisition of ERPI films.  They tended to have a dryer style with narration and without music.  They concentrated on more serious subjects, and made few social guidance films. There is more about E-B in "Mental Hygiene".

ERPI Films was one of the largest producers of educational films in the 1930's.  They were a division of Western Electric, the manufacturing and supply division of the Bell System.  Their films were generally well made but lack the flair of later films.  Their films are serious in tone.  They are significant for being among the first sound films made for the classroom.  They were acquired by Encylopaedia Britannica Films in the late 1940's.

Avis Films was one of the smaller producers.  All of the films that I have seen by them are from the 1950's and are of the health or civics genres.  Their films are delightfully campy glimpses of life in the 1950's.  Their low budgets are evident in the films.  All Avis films I have found are on Kodachrome, so the color is still very good.

Centron began to release films under their own name in the 1970's, but in the 1950's and 1960's were mostly made for other distributors, such as Young America Films or McGraw Hill Text Films.  They also made a few sponsored films.  There is more about Centron in "Mental Hygiene".

The Bell System released some very well made educational films.  Most of these were produced under contract, and most were made for television in the 1950's and early 1960's.  Best remembered are the science films with Dr. Frank Baxter and the Leonard Bernstein Young Peoples Concerts.  These could be borrowed from the telephone company.

Sid Davis was notorious for giving school children nightmares with films on subjects that the larger producers wouldn't touch.  He produced the traffic safety films with actual accident footage and films warning of child molesters. There is more about Sid Davis in "Mental Hygiene".

Crawley Films was a prolific Canadian producer of educational films.  Most of the films were quite well made.  Many were distributed by the National Film Board of Canada, and others were distributed in the U.S. by International Film Bureau.

McGraw Hill generally did not make their own films, but distributed films make by companies such as Centron.

Young America Films, like McGraw Hill, mostly distributed films made by Centron.  They were active mostly in the late 1940's and early 1950's.

Moody Institute of Science made a series of films with high production values, but they are interesting in their point of view.  As a division of the Moody Bible Institute, they present the wonders of nature as evidence that these miracles of creation couldn't happen by random evolution.

National Film Board of Canada made and distributed many of the best educational films.  Many of the films were made themselves, and others were made by firms such as Crawley Films.

Northwest Educational Film Companies - There were a number of small producers of films located in the Northwest.

Martin Moyer made films on a variety of subjects including many nature films and northwest industry, and the series of physical education films are amusing in retrospect.  Most Martin Moyer films were made in the 1960's.

Rarig's made mostly industrial and safety films, with a few nature films and sponsored
films.  They were mostly active in the 1950's and early 1960's.  Rarig's was also known as a film rental service and sold and repaired A-V equipment.

Louis Kirk made mostly nature films in the northwest.  Most of his work dates from the 1970's.  He is also well known as the photographer for a series of nature and history books written by his wife, Ruth Kirk.

Copyright 2002, Paul Ivester.  All rights reserved.