Name that movie house

July 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

Kathryn Helgesen Fuller has some details on that Essanay naming contest that gave the world the “photoplay” (1). It could have been “kinorama”or “mutodramic” (!) or even the race-inspired “photodrome” – but instead it was the submission of one Edgar Strakosch, from California,

theater owner whose own nickelodeons were named Dreamland, Bijou, and Wonderland.

Fuller also has looked at naming conventions for nickelodeons and what they reveal about early cinema’s cultural position and acceptance strategies: escapism (Amuse-U) , exoticism (Alhambra), lights (Star), cheap prices (Nickelette) — but also names that aimed to inscribe cinemas within very local contexts : as civic centers (Town Hall), or as family centers (Family Moving Picture Parlor).
Still others named their theater with names of places that had some sort of allure :

Chicago, besides having a Boston theater, was also home to a California Theater years before the film industry moved there.

Another instance of myths guiding reality…

UPDATE 31/07/09:
The curious may scroll down the list of theater names operating in Toledo, Ohio, as of 1919 (2), for confirmation: status (“Grand”, “Bijou”, “Empress” or “Princess” or “Duchess” or etc.), drama (“Quo Vadis”, “Ivanhoe”), civic (“Colonial” or “Liberty” or “National”), entertainment (“Pastime”), exotic (“Japanese Garden”, “Orient”, “Mystic”), or familiar (“Home”), etc.
Picture 2

(1) At the Picture Show: Small-Town Audiences and the Creation of Movie Fan Culture (1996)
(2) Phelan, Motion Pictures as a Phase of Commercial Amusement in Toledo, Ohio (1919)

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