Before reading this article, I imagined early filmgoing merely as an urban phenomenon. My mental image of early film was solely based upon Nickelodeons, and even that was confused by my modern experiences with internet cafes and computer labs. I envisioned viewing stations housed in showy store fronts, and top-hat wearing men passing by curtain-draped store windows, glancing in. Reading Fuller, helped me realize how mistaken my preconceptions were. Early filmgoing was not merely an urban experience, but was more comparable to itinerant theatre troupes and the vaudeville circuit. It was a competitive business and a predecessor to the Nickelodeon, and not nearly as much its contemporary (I’m saying with the upcoming Nickelodeon came the downfall of the itinerant exhibitor). Here are a few of my favorite realizations I noted while reading:
1. I was impressed by how early on exhibition of content was separated from production and distribution, and taken on by private entrepreneurs like the Cooks (although Fuller notes that the Cooks may have filmed one or two short reels of their own).
2. I was also surprised by how early on the film industry decided that imitation was profitable. The Cooks sure did copy aspects of Howe’s billing. What mustaches those men had! At the same time though… although they copied Howe’s genteel appeal, they tried to differentiate their offerings, emphasizing entertainment over Howe’s educational lectures (pg. 9).
3. Lastly, it intrigued me that the clergy was so heavily emphasized in approving what films were shown and whether films being shown were acceptable. I suppose this only foreshadows what is to come in Hollywood.