#7 – Fuller – “At the Picture Show”, Chs. 2 & 3

The next two chapters of Fuller’s revealing book delve deeply into the patterns development of the nickelodeon industry, first in the density and placement of these theaters and then into the more audiences-centered study of what actually went on inside these theaters, and the differences from nickelodeon to nickelodeon.

I’ve found all her writing about the relationship between movie exhibition and patterns of population geography extremely interesting because it provides a lens through which to view patterns of settlement in our country right before it began to urbanize very rapidly.  I know this is an oversimplification, but patterns of movie viewing in the 21st century seem so homogeneous in comparison with the geographical diversity of these practices in the nickelodeon era.  Regional characteristics, like Puritan worldviews in the northeast or poverty and racism in the south, were absolutely essential in determining how exhibitors chose locations, and I find this fascinating.

Near the end of chapter three, we can see this regional variation disappearing and a more monolithic, “industrial” film culture arising as the nickelodeons begin to fade, due to epics like Birth of a Nation and the rise of bigger, more ostentatious and pricier theaters.  Fuller mentions that the theater operators who survived were the ones who bought out their competitors and started to form chains, and from there it’s easy to imagine the chain of events that would lead to the way things are now.