Case of the $30,000 Vintage Hollywood Moviola

By Ryan Paveza, Antiques & Collectibles specialist for Enservio | June 11, 2018

Long before digital cinematography, computer-generated imagery and other modern motion picture technologies, the mainstay of editors in movie house “cutting rooms” was the Moviola. Originally invented by Iwan Serrurier in 1917 as a home movie projector, the name itself comes from the Victrola. Seurrier had invented a device that would bring movies to the home much as the portable Victrola brought music. Unfortunately, few could afford the projector’s high price tag and sales were limited. In the early 1920s, an editor suggested that Serrurier adapt his consumer device into an editing machine to assist professional film editors. Thus, the first vertical film editing machine was born and remained the hallmark means for editing film through the 1960s. Inevitably the 1970s arrived bringing to light the horizontal “flat bed” style editor that replaced the Moviola as the industry standard. Some editors today still use the original, as well as the modern versions of the Moviola. In fact, the company manages to remain active to this day.

The Piece

Moviola Image public domain courtesy of Wikimedia

The Enservio Select team was tasked with determining the retail replacement value of an antique Moviola Editor damaged in a water loss. Unfortunately, the policyholder was unable to provide any photographs, pre-loss appraisal or other supporting documentation to help determine provenance. The only information provided to the claims team was its serial number and that the item was a rare version of a Moviola used in Hollywood. The policyholder claimed the Moviola had a value of $29,000.

Unspooling the Reel

This type of equipment exists within a very small niche of collectors. Despite the limited information available, the team’s photographic and film equipment category specialists knew the right questions to ask, which proved crucial to identifying an accurate retail replacement value. Questions posed about the antique concerned basic item attributes such as its age, model and condition; whether any provenance or historical record existed, and any information about the Moviola’s application and film studio association, as well as the unit’s film format (16mm or 35mm).

The team ran internet searches and discovered Moviola “sculptures” that displayed values similar to the insured’s stated value, including a unit that featured a provenance of being a former Disney property. Team appraisers knew that existing Moviolas without bearing such attractive collectible provenance would yield much lower values.

Reeling in the Results

Subject matter experts reviewed comparable vintage Moviola film editing machines sold at recent auctions. They determined a reasonable retail replacement value of $3,000. To support the value, we provided the policyholder with comparable pieces recently sold at auction on eBay,, Premiere Props, and Rago.

In this Case Of, with a replacement value of nearly $26,000 less than the insureds stated value, film was not the only cut on an editor.

Ryan Paveza is an Antiques & Collectibles specialist for Enservio (, a
provider of contents claim management software, payments solutions, inventory and valuation services for property insurers. Paveza worked at the Art Institute of Chicago as a Collection Manager and Research Assistant. He is certified by the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) and has passed the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). Contact him at

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