Fuller – Chapters 4,5,6
Coming from New York City, I never really considered the differences between large and small town audiences, and their wants and needs. I always thought about blockbuster films as a universal interest that all people could relate to. Since I am not biased against films based in the countryside or in non-urban areas, I did not see any reason to consider differences between these audiences.
Thinking about it now, particularly after reading more of Fuller’s book, I realize that a difference in geographic and sociocultural setting could make or break someone’s enjoyment and understanding of a motion picture, particularly in the early 20th century when understanding of different cultures wasn’t as readily available as it is today. Today, we have television to show us other worlds through the Travel Channel, the Food Network, Discovery, the History Channel, and other mostly documentary channels, not to mention narrative shows. Even if we come from small towns, large cities are no longer foreign to us and we do not live completely separated. Travel is now much easier to achieve as well. Back then, I imagine it was much harder to go into cities and experience their world. Many people lived in closed off communities, and did not have everything at their fingertips.
I believe that this is why there was such a dichotomy between the films people liked, particularly the church-movie scene. In a gated town community filled with a more homogenous group of people with religious fervor, some movies may not have been considered acceptable. The church-movie phenomenon was a response to the thought of many mainstream fiction films to be distasteful and unsuitable for the good Christian audience. In cities, since there was a much more heterogeneous population with varying interests, religious, faiths and cultural backgrounds, there wasn’t this same taboo in showing certain types of films. In the nickelodeon era, this lack of censorship in what was shown at many movie houses, as well as the audiences that were drawn to the films, made people believe that the movie houses in the cities, particularly in New York, were of lower value and cultural significance than those in small towns.
Fuller mentions how this changed when producers and film magnates began to realize that the film audience in the cities were much broader than just the lower class. They began to establish “new, more upscale movie theaters and customers.” (p. 99) This is visible proof of the split between large and small town audiences, since this large change did not translate to small towns. The small town audience started being considered the less sophisticated viewership as film audiences in urban areas began to include middle and even upper class groups.
I think that today, film audiences in large cities are still thought of as more sophisticated, especially in commercial centers and richer parts of these cities. Also, independent cinemas are considered the ones with more sophisticated audiences that are open to less commercial films, and most small towns do not have independent cinemas; take Middlebury as an example. The cinema world has learned to congregate in large cities, though movies portray all worlds, and this is presented in many ways. One way that cities have become the hub of movie culture is through film festivals. International film festivals are held in cities around the world, such as New York City, Cannes and Toronto, and these festivals give out prestigious awards and are many times the first to show films. Small towns do not have the draw or international influence to have these festivals, and their audiences are no longer considered the more sophisticated like they were in the era of the nickelodeon.