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Boris Lozhkin
Boris Lozhkin
President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress

Celebrating famous Jews from Ukraine: Barney Balaban

For all the popularity of cinema at the beginning of the twentieth century, revenues of movie theaters depended for a long time on the season. In summer, no matter how good the movie was, attracting spectators to watch it was an impossible task due to the stuffy heat in the hall.
Barney Balaban and his brother-in-law Sam Katz figured out how to win back patrons. They used powerful fans blowing over cakes of ice in washtubs to keep them pleasantly cool. However, their invention had one significant flaw: as the ice melted, the air currents turned from a refreshing breeze into a shower, therefore, by their order, the engineers created an industrial system that blew dry cooled air.
It was in 1917, and the Balaban & Katz Theater Chain became the first air-conditioned theaters in the world, and Barney Balaban was later invited to head the Paramount Pictures film company, which he had been running for nearly 30 years.
Barney’s younger brother, A.J., has also contributed to the increase in theaters attendance. He proposed and organized performances of orchestras in the foyer and turned film screenings into real shows. Although this practice is used today only at pre-premiere screenings, until the end of the last century, performances of musical bands in cinemas were commonplace.
When television broadcasting began to develop, the Balaban brothers took part also in this direction. They were among the first to establish cable broadcasting networks.
Today, the youngest of the Balaban dynasty, Bob, is a successful Hollywood actor, director and screenwriter. It all began at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, when parents of the future innovators of show business moved to the United States from Odessa and opened a grocery store in Chicago.

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About the Author
Boris Lozhkin is a Ukrainian entrepreneur, philanthropist and author. He is President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress.
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