Rowdy Theaters

I hate when people talk during movies. But this is a nuisance that has been going on since cinema’s infancy.  Theater managers, studios, producers have no way of controlling this, let alone me.

During the Nickelodeon era (1905-1915), audiences conversed not only with each other, but also with the screen. Historians have accounts of moviegoers eating lunch, suckling babies, and viewers translating out loud subtitles for those who could not read, children cheering, and hawkers along the aisles (Fuller: 75). Although there is nothing deviant about these activities, the theater is not the ideal place for them. Essentially this description illustrates a social event similar to a concert or festival.

Indeed watching a film is not a passive activity. However, a degree of cordiality is necessary so that the film is internalized.

Studios and producers capitalized on this audience energy. Moviegoers attacked studios by sending scripts and photoplay scenarios in hoards. Studios retaliated with screenwriting contests in which the winner’s work was used in a movie.

The idea was to establish social control. Because the cinema was still a new phenomenon, a way of movie going needed to be instituted. Similarly, when the television set was introduced, people were unsure where to place this bulky apparatus in their homes. With the coming of nickelodeons, a set movie going etiquette did not exist. The relationship between theaters and moviegoers shifted with the coming of feature length narrative films that required more concentration. In addition, elegant theaters were erected to attract the higher classes (Fuller: 83). The industry, essentially dictated how films were viewed, but breaking the rules has and will always be fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *