The first Buck Rogers film was made with apparently no budget at all and was released in 1934, but was not shown in theaters. Not in the usual way, anyway. It was shown in one special theater.
The first Buck Rogers film was shown to the public during the second year, 1934 edition, of the Chicago World's Fair. The Century of Progress International Exposition was held in Chicago in 1933 and 1934 to celebrate the city's centennial. The theme of the fair was technological innovation. Its motto was "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms" and its architectural symbol was the Sky Ride, a transporter bridge perpendicular to the shore on which one could ride from one end of the fair to the other. After a winter break, the 1934 Fair ran from May 26 through Oct. 31 and included a new Island Midway area that faced Lake Michigan. The "Buck Rogers Show," as it was called on admission tickets, was located on the Enchanted Island playground for children, at #125 on the left hand section of the 1934 Fair Map. It is unknown whether this film was the entire show, or if fans were treated to some live action event as well for their dime. It is certain that after watching the movie, visitors could purchase the very same toy spaceships and ray guns they had just seen. Pretty tricky, huh?