Filmo Depot (菲林模影機)

York Lo: Filmo Depot (菲林模影機)

Filmo Depot Image 1 York Lo

Left: Filmo Depot’s ad for Filmo 8 in 1939 (China Journal, December 1939); Center: article announcing the re-opening of Filmo Depot after the War in 1947 (HK Sunday Herald, 1947-9-21) Right: Filmo Depot’s ad for its Corrascope films in 1960 (Pacific Island Monthly, May 1960)

From the 1930s to the 1970s, Filmo Depot was one of the leading distributors of films, cameras and projectors in Hong Kong and acted as the Far East agentfor Bell & Howell movie cameras for many decades and distributed Polaroid cameras after the 1950s. It also produced and distributed educational films throughout the Asia Pacific region.

The founders of Filmo Depot were Heinz “Henry” Corra (1898-1973) and his wifeLeopoldine “Poldi” Fleishmann (1904-1969), who came from Vienna and founded Filmo Depot in HK in 1936. The firm derived its name from the popular Filmo 8mm and 16mm movie camera developed in the 1920s by Bell & Howell, a leading manufacturer of cameras, lenses and motion picture machinery founded in Chicago in 1903.

To promote the use of Filmo movie cameras, Filmo Depot organized the Amateur Movie Makers Contest in Hong Kong in 1937 and the winner of Class A was J.B. Emmert, an executive with Standard Vacuum Oil who filmed the arrival of the Clipper with color and long distance photography and closes ups of fauna and flora while the winner of Class B was Reverend/Captain J.A. Williamson. (HK Telegraph, 1937-3-16) It was already operating out of the 3rd floor of Marina House in Central before the War (Directory & Chronicle for China, 1938)

During the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941, Henry Corraserved as a lance bombardier with the HK Volunteer Defense Corps and as a result, he was interned in the Sham Shui Po camp while his wife Poldi and daughter Christine were interned in the Stanley camp after the Japanese occupied HK in December 1941. In the Stanley camp, Poldi played the piano while Christine did sketches of fellow internees and worked on costumes for a production of Midsummer’s Night Dream in 1944.

After the War, the Corras were released and reopenedFilmo Deport in October 1947 on the third floor of Marina House with new modern decorations and a completely equipped projection room and workshop. (See article above). The Corrasas proprietors were assisted by assistant manager Wong Kim-wah, accountant Chen Wai-kuen, cashier Ruth Vun and staff member Mrs. Helen Lam. In addition to Bell & Howell, the firm was the agent for J.A. Maurer movie cameras from Long Island, Society of Visual Education from Chicago, Young America Films from New York and Encyclopedia Britannica Film from Chicago in the late 1940s. (Business Directory of HK, Canton and Macao, 1949)

In the 1950s, the firm added Polaroid (which invented the first commercial instant camera in 1948) to its list of agencies and introduced Corrascope Films (named after its proprietors), a series of 8mm and 16mm color travel films covering over 170 subjects around the world. (FEER, 1963) In 1959, Filmo Depot lent out a Polaroid instant camera and 10 rolls of films for a charity event at Southorn Playground in Wanchai organized by Wah KiuYat Po and Radio Hong Kong where residents could take pictures with the movie stars Yam Kim-fai, Pak Suet-sin and Leung Sing-bor for just one, two and all three for $30, $50 and $100.  (WKYP, 1959-1-16)

Filmo Depot Image 2 York Lo

Left: Henry Corra as a young man (Geni); Right: Henry and Poldi Corra at the Kai Tak Airport in 1962 after returning from a two-month business trip in Europe on a Swissair flight (WKYP, 1962-11-14)

In the 1960s and 1970s, Filmo Depot was still operating out of the 3rd floor of Marina House. (Fodors Guide, 1965, 1973; FEER, 1963; Hong Kong $ Directory, 1974) In the 1960s, the travel guidebook Olson’s Orient Guide recommended Filmo Depot stating that “one not only may buy films, cameras, and supplies, but the Filmo Depot has the largest library of exposed film for sale of any company in the world” and called H. Corra a friend. Based on ads in Australia in the 1960s, the firm also shipped transistor radios, Chinese brocades, household appliances, cultured pearls and plastic flowers to the Australian market in addition to camera equipment and its educational films. (Pacific Islands Monthly, 1966 and 1967) Based on birth notice, William M. Glass from New Jersey was manager of the Polaroid division of Filmo Depot in HK in the late 1960s. (Courier News, Bridgewater NJ, 1968-4-10)

In 1969, Filmo Depot became the distributor of Walt Disney’s 8mm and 35mm films. (WKYP, 1969-8-6) In 1971, Filmo Depot rolled out the Polaroid ID-3 identification system at the Mandarin.  Each of the system which comprised of camera and laminator to make ID cards was selling for HK$10,000. (WKYP, 1971-11-30)

In 1969, Poldi Corradied of cancer in Rochester, New York while her husband Henry died of heart attack in Vienna in 1973. They were survived by their son Henry Jacob Corra (1926-2008) and daughter Christine Sophie Genders (1921-2006). (Geni)

After Henry Corra passed way, the British trading houseHutchison acquired Filmo Depot. In 1974, its agencies also included Sangamo Weston exposure meters from the UK and hotel management training films by National Educational Media from the US. (HK $ Directory)

In the late 1970s, Filmo Depot shifted its focus to the corporate and educational segment. In 1977, the firm was invited by the HK Productivity Centre to give a talk on audiovisual products such as projectors and 8mm films that could help with corporate training. In 1978, the Chinese government invited Filmo Depot to showcase 500 of its audiovisual equipment and educational films in three major cities – Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing as part of its effort to promote use of technology in education. The events were attended by over 500,000 educators from those cities and delegates from other provinces including Xinjiang and Sichuan.  (TKP, 1978-8-2; 1978-9-1)

Filmo Depot Image 3 York Lo

Opening ceremony of the Filmo Depot expo at the HK Hilton in 1981. Left to right: chairman of Filmo Depot, head of HK Polytechnic, Filmo Depot managing director Tsang Wing-kwong (WKYP, 1981-10-25)

Sources (other than those cited above):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filmo

https://gwulo.com/node/10875

This article was first posted on 25th December 2020.

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