The Cinematic Age: The Evolution and Future of Moviegoing Around the World, Once Magazine: Issue 9
Story by Stephan Zaubitzer, and Spencer Strub
Obituaries for the movie theater have been written since even before its birth. In 1894, the inventor Thomas Edison gloomily anticipated the commercial failure of his Kinetoscope, his peep-show movie-player. Each machine catered to only one viewer. The impractical device duly went bust, proving Edison right.
Two years later, mass audiences had jumpstarted the beginning of a movie theater industry. The early ages of American theaters were, in certain ways, radically democratic. The nickelodeon theater of the early twentieth century was a common social space, dishing up cheap entertainment to mixed working- and middle-class audiences. Prohibitionists of that time loved the movie theater; it challenged that older exercise in communal entertainment—the saloon.
The success of these theaters, however, though enormous, was always precarious. In the US and Europe, a series of small booms and busts in the industry in the first half of the twentieth century left studios and theater owners desperate for the next seat-packing gimmick.
Stephen has recently launched a Kiss Kiss Bank Bank campaign to fund the next installment of this story. You can donate here and help him reach Hollywood California, the cradle of cinema.
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