Contents 1 History 2 Changes in film distribution and exhibition 3 Audience 3.1 Manhattan nickelodeons 4 Types of nickelodeon programs 5 Decline 6 See also 7 References 7.1 Bibliography 8 External links and sources

History[edit] The name "Nickelodeon", in which "nickel" (the US 5-cent coin) has been joined with the Greek word for an enclosed theater adopted by the 18th-century Odéon in Paris, was first used in 1888 by Colonel William Austin[2] for his Austin's Nickelodeon,[3] a dime museum located in Boston, Massachusetts. However, the term was popularized by Harry Davis and John P. Harris, who opened their small storefront theater with that name on Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on June 19, 1905. Although it was not the first theater to show films, in 1919 a news article stated that it was the first theater in the world "devoted exclusively to exhibition of moving picture spectacles".[4] Davis and Harris found such great success with their operation that their concept of a five-cent theater showing movies continuously was soon imitated by hundreds of ambitious entrepreneurs, as was the name of the theater itself. Statistics indicated that the number of nickelodeons in the United States doubled between 1907 and 1908 to around 8000, and it was estimated that by 1910 as many as 26 million Americans visited these theaters every week.[5] Nickelodeons that were in converted storefronts typically seated fewer than 200, patrons often sat on hard wooden chairs, the screen was hung on the back wall, and a piano (and maybe a drum set) would be placed to the side of or below the screen. Larger nickelodeons sometimes had the capacity for well over 1000 people.[6] Louis B. Mayer came of age just as the popularity of the nickelodeon was beginning to rise; he renovated the Gem Theater in Haverhill, Massachusetts, converting it into a nickelodeon that he opened in 1907 as the Orpheum Theater, announcing that it would be "the home of refined entertainment devoted to Miles Brothers moving pictures and illustrated songs".[7] Other well-known nickelodeon owners were the Skouras Brothers of St. Louis.

Changes in film distribution and exhibition[edit] Nickelodeons radically altered the mode of representation that corresponded with changes in the modes of distribution and the types of films being made. Around 1903, longer multi-shot films became more prevalent, and this shift brought about important innovations in the distribution of films with the establishment of "film exchanges".[8] Film exchanges would buy films from manufacturers and then rent them out to exhibitors. With a steady supply of different films, exhibitors finally had the possibility to open venues where films were the central attraction. They did not have to worry about finding new audiences because the same audience would return again and again to watch different films. Exhibition practices greatly varied and programs lasted anywhere from ten minutes to an hour and a half or more in length. Often, programs ran continuously and patrons would join a program already in progress when they arrived and stay as long as they liked. While some nickelodeons only showed films, others offered shows that combined films with vaudeville acts or illustrated songs.[9] The desirability of longer films, which enabled nickelodeons to grow the way they did, was the result of a number of factors. For one, economic competition between film production companies put pressure on them to create more elaborate, and often longer, films, to differentiate one film from another. Also, longer films were more attractive as the price paid by exhibitors depended on a film's length and the longer a film, the more profit there was to be made. Some exhibitors found longer films more desirable since it made programming easier, faster, and possibly cheaper, as they no longer had to organize their own programs by editing together a variety of short films. Directors had a great desire to make longer films because it meant greater artistic innovation as they tried to find new ways to engage audiences. The popularity of longer films also meant an increase in production of fictional films as actualities decreased. One of the possible reasons for this shift is that fiction films were often easier to plan and cheaper to film than actualities which were subject to various location-related difficulties. Fiction films, therefore, quickly became regularized, and the popularity of longer films meant that they outsold actualities, which were usually short.[10]

Audience[edit] Early writers on American cinema history assumed that audiences at nickelodeons were primarily working-class people who could not afford a higher ticket price.[9] More recent historians, however, claim the importance of middle class audiences throughout the nickelodeon era and into the later 1910s. At the heart of the image of nickelodeons in traditional histories is the belief that movies were a proletarian amusement and that the "proper" middle-class stayed away until after World War I.[11] This idea is reflected in Lewis Jacobs' 1939 survey, where he writes: "Concentrated largely in poorer shopping districts and slum neighborhoods, nickelodeons were disdained by the well-to-do. But, the workmen and their families who patronized the movies did not mind the crowded, unsanitary, and hazardous accommodations most of the nickelodeons offered."[12] In his recent research, however, Robert C. Allen has debated that movies attracted a middle-class audience as illustrated by the location of earlier movie theaters in traditional entertainment districts. Allen writes that "In terms of social class, more nickelodeons were located in or near middle-class neighborhoods than in the Lower East Side ghetto."[13] Manhattan nickelodeons[edit] The nickelodeon boom in Manhattan between 1905 and 1907 has often functioned as historical shorthand for the rise of the movies in general.[14] Ben Singer writes in his analysis of Manhattan nickelodeons, "For most people ... the image of cramped, dingy nickelodeons in Manhattan's Lower East Side ghetto stands as a symbol for the cinema's emergence in America."[14] Nickelodeons consistently appeared in the densest areas of the city in terms of residential concentration and the amount of pedestrian traffic. Areas such as Union Square, Herald Square, 23rd Street, and 125th Street were obvious locations and the larger movie theaters popped up there. Neighborhood nickelodeons, which were the majority of movie theaters in Manhattan, were almost always located in neighborhoods with high residential densities and spread over a substantial number of blocks.[15]

Types of nickelodeon programs[edit] Nickelodeons usually showed films about ten to fifteen minutes in length, and in a variety of styles and subjects, such as short narratives, "scenics" (views of the world from moving trains), "actualities" (precursors of later documentary films), illustrated songs, local or touring song and dance acts, comedies, melodramas, problem plays, stop action sequences, sporting events and other features which allowed them to compete with vaudeville houses. The titles of a few of the films released in 1907 and distributed to nickelodeons by the Miles Brothers (Herbert, Harry and Earl C.) partially illustrate this diversity. These are taken from a 1907 article published in The Saturday Evening Post: Catch the Kid (directed by Alf Collins; comedy) The Coroner's Mistake (comic ghost story) The Fatal Hand (directed by J. H. Martin; drama) Johnny's Run (directed by Frank Mottershaw; comedy) Knight-Errant (directed by J. H. Martin; old historical drama) A Mother's Sin (directed by J. H. Martin; drama) The Romany's Revenge (directed by Frank Mottershaw; drama) Roof to Cellar (comedy) Sailor's Return (drama) Village Fire Brigade (directed by James Williamson; comedy) Wizard's World (comedy) Other 1907 films also distributed to nickelodeons by the Miles Brothers: Anarchist's Mother-in-Law Boss Away, Choppers Play Cambridge-Oxford Race Cheekiest Man on Earth Female Wrestlers Great Lion Hunt Indian Basket Weavers International Contest for the Heavyweight Championship: Squires vs. Burns Jim Jeffries on His California Ranch Life and Customs in India The Naval Nursery The Petticoat Regiment Shriners' Conclave at Los Angeles Squires, Australian Champion, in His Training Quarters That Awful Tooth The White Slave A Woman's Duel

Decline[edit] A nickelodeon in 1910 showing "The Heroine of Mafeking" and other films Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nickelodeons. Though strong throughout the years from 1905 to 1913, nickelodeons became victims of their own success as attendance grew rapidly, necessitating larger auditoriums. Nickelodeons further declined with the advent of the feature film, and as cities grew and industry consolidation led to larger, more comfortable, better-appointed movie theaters. Longer films caused ticket prices to double from five cents to ten cents.[16] Although their heyday was relatively brief, nickelodeons played an important part in creating a specialized spectator, "the moviegoer", who could now integrate going to the movies into his or her life in a way that was impossible before. Miriam Hansen has noted that the term "spectator" had become common by 1910.[17] The nickelodeon explosion also increased the demand for new films, as thousands of theaters needed new product. The growth of longer films, which nickelodeons played a large part in stimulating, also led to the development of intertitles, which appeared in 1903 and helped make actions and scenes clearer as storylines became more complicated. A side-effect of this change was that it minimized the role of exhibitors, since they no longer had the editorial control of organizing single-shot films into programs, and now their narrative responsibility (some exhibitors would talk and help explain narratives as they unfolded) was also minimized by this "internal narration" in the film.[6]

See also[edit] Film portal Nickelodeon, a 1976 film about the early days of the silent movies business. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has an exhibit, Yesterday's Main Street, which includes a working mock-up of a nickelodeon. Nickelodeon, an American basic cable and satellite television network airing children's programs.

References[edit] ^ Charles 1990, p. 417. ^ Aronson, Michael (2008). Nickelodeon City: Pittsburgh at the Movies, 1905-1929. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 26. ISBN 0-8229-4322-0.  ^ King, Moses (1889). King's hand-book of Boston (9 ed.).  ^ Lightner, E.W. Pittsburg Gave Birth to the Movie Theater Idea Archived 2006-09-28 at the Wayback Machine., The Dispatch, November 16, 1919 ^ Bowser, Eileen (1990). The Transformation of Cinema, 1907-1915. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 4–6.  ^ a b Grieveson 2004, pp. 80–81. ^ Where Is Haverhill, Massachusetts?, City of Haverhill, Massachusetts, April 8, 2006 ^ Grieveson 2004, p. 83. ^ a b Grieveson 2004, p. 82. ^ Grieveson 2004, p. 78. ^ Singer 2004, p. 120. ^ Jacobs 1939, p. 56. ^ Allen, Robert C (1985). Film History: Theory and Practice. New York: McGraw Hill. p. 202.  ^ a b Singer 2004, p. 119. ^ Singer 2004, p. 126. ^ The Nickelodeon's history Archived 2008-08-21 at the Wayback Machine., ^ Hansen 1991, pp. 84–85. Bibliography[edit] Charles, Musser (1990). The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907. Berkeley: University of California Press.  Grieveson, Lee (2004). The Silent Cinema Reader. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-25283-0.  Hansen, Miriam (1991). Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship and American Silent Film. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-05831-3.  Jacobs, Lewis (1939). The Rise of the American Film. New York: Harcourt Brace.  Singer, Ben (2004). "Manhattan Nickelodeons: New Data on Audiences and Exhibitors" in The Silent Cinema Reader. New York: Routledge. 

External links and sources[edit] The Nickelodeons, written by Joseph Medill Patterson and published in the November 23, 1907 issue of The Saturday Evening Post "Story films" distributed by the Miles Brothers, from the American Film Institute Catalog of Feature Films Retrieved from "" Categories: Cinemas and movie theaters in the United StatesHidden categories: Webarchive template wayback linksArticles needing additional references from April 2015All articles needing additional referencesArticles that may contain original research from April 2015

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