Billy B. Van forms Equity Motion Picture Company and begins filming “wholesome and amusing comedies of merit” with a troupe of fifteen “picture artists” including, among others, Rose and Nellie Beaumont, at a studio on the shores of Lake Sunapee at Van Harbor in Georges Mills, New Hampshire.
It is reported that Equity also has New York offices at the Strand Theater Building at 47th and Broadway. Various reports in the trade press state that the company is capitalized at $1,000,000, which by today's standards would be more than $23 million dollars. Subsequent reports indicate the figure was actually $100,000 ($2+ million today). Billy B. Van is listed as president, with Bob Russell serving as the vice president. DeWitt C. Wheeler is mentioned as directing some films.
1915 is also reported as the year Equity merged with the Public Service Film Company, a film distribution company in New York, headed by Joseph Leblang (“the cut rate ticket king,” and who is also noted for his production of German war films). The new entity purchased the J.W. Gunby studio in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey where filming "will begin after the first of the year.” The Gunby studio had a large printing development plant.
The trade-journal “Picture-Play Weekly” reported in several articles that Billy B. Van has been in production at his studio at Lake Sunapee on “The Janitor’s Birthday” and “The Exploits of Emilene” (both featuring scenes with a goat).
Equity Motion Picture Company runs ads in the trade press soliciting manuscripts.
Equity is reported to have “Turned out a number of films last summer.”
Reported to be joining with the Famous Players-Lasky organization.
Sunapee Film Corporation founded in New York City with $100,000 capitalization. Billy B. Van will star in their first two productions.
Billy B. Van sells his film studio to Sunapee Film Corporation.
Three Reelcraft Royal Comedies in wide distribution: “Snakes,” “Where Are Your Husbands?,” and “The Plucky Hoodoo.”
No mention of the films of Billy B. Van can be complete without mention of Reelcraft Pictures Corporation, with main offices at 729 7th Ave in New York City. Reelcraft distributed at least 3 of Billy B. Van’s films in its “Royal Comedy” series: “Snakes,” “The Plucky Hoodoo,” and “Where Are Your Husbands?” Incorporated in February of 1920 for $5,000,000 ($62+ million dollars today), it would eventually face several lawsuits and go into bankruptcy only two years later- though various Reelcraft film exchanges would continue to survive for some time.
Reelcraft was formed by the merger of Emerald Motion Picture Company of Chicago, Bull’s Eye Film Corporation of New York, Bee Hive Film Company of Chicago, the Cropper Distributing Corporation of Chicago, and the Interstate Film Company of New York. Reelcraft reportedly takes over “pictures, stars and studios,” including studios in Long Beach and Hollywood, and film exchanges in New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Minneapolis. It aims to be a short-subject supplier so that theaters may have films to accompany features. Among the stars added to the Reelcraft stable as a result of the merger, are notable film stars Billy West, Alice Howell, and William Franey.
Initially, Reelcraft announces the first 2-reel Billy B. Van comedy is “More Bull” and to be part of the Royal Comedy Series. Later, the first title is announced to be “Snakes,” edited by Tom Bret. Reelcraft reports the Billy B. Van films are well-received, and plans “The Plucky Hoodoo” for the fourth release for the Royal Comedy series, and “Where Are Your Husbands?” for the 5th.
Reelcraft operated picture exchanges under its own name in Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and New York City, and with other companies across the U.S.: Atlanta, GA (E. & H. Film Distributing Co.), Buffalo, NY & Syracuse, NY (Dooley Exchange Co.), Dallas, TX, Oklahoma City, OK and Little Rock, AR (R.D. Lewis Film Co.), Denver, CO & Seattle, WA (Supreme Photoplays Co.), Davenport, IA & Omaha, NE (Magnet Film Company), Kansas City, MO (Standard Film Company), New Orleans, LA (H.G. Till Productions), Philadelphia, PA & Washington, DC (Electric Theatre Company), St. Louis, MO (Standard Film Company).
Reelcraft announces partnership with the Export and Import Film Company of New York for foreign distribution of Reelcraft films. Export and Import Film Company would later go on to buy the assets of Reelcraft when it goes bankrupt.
Ad in the trade press mentions Rex Photoplays of Boston as producer of Billy B. Van comedies.
In the Fall of 1921, a report attributed to the Kansas City Reelcraft exchange states that “the Pantages circuit of the West and Middle West has contracted for the entire output of the Reelcraft comedies.”
Many reviews for "The Beauty Shop" early in the year.
O'Conor Productions buys Reelcraft studio, renames it Caswell Studios
Ad appears for the film "The White Sin," featuring Billy B. Van. In fact, silent star Billy Bevan appears and is credited in the film. A common case of mistaken identity, although unusual to see in print.
A.G. Steen, president of Miller & Steen Distributors, 1650 Broadway, NYC reports release of 6 films with Billy B. Van, Walter Hiers, Bert Byron and the Beaumont Sisters:
The New Clerk
The Janitor’s Birthday
The Bootlegger’s Legacy
The New Woman
A.G. Steen was a film distributor, projector inventor and manufacturer of film stock. H.B. “Hunt” Miller worked early on with Metro Pictures Corp., and the Pittsburgh Paramount Exchange and produced several Westerns. There is little mention of Miller & Steen Distributors in the trade press other than the announcement of the release of the Billy B. Van comedies.
Walter Hiers in the Exhibitor’s Trade Review later denies “emphatically” that he is starring in the films mentioned by A.G. Steen. “The comedies referred to by Mr. Steen were made about ten years ago up at Sunapee, New Hampshire. Sunapee is where Billy B. Van lived at the time, and he was to be starred in these productions. Then I was only a small part player- and not so good at that. A fellow named Bob Russell sponsored the company, and we went up there for some four months. I honestly don’t believe they were ever made to release. They’re terrible. Perhaps the whole business doesn’t mean anything, but I hate to have my name mixed up with any such misrepresentation.”