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From Peep Show to Picture Palace

The Early Exhibition of Motion Pictures

1. Origins to 1928

2. Origins to 1914

  1. Richard Abel

Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf003

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

How to Cite

Abel, R. 2011. From Peep Show to Picture Palace. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. 1:2:3.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

Abstract

During the 20-year period from 1894 to 1914, the exhibition of motion pictures underwent an extraordinary transformation. A young man or woman standing in a Kinetoscope parlor, in 1894, viewing a short continuous filmstrip loop in a peephole device would have a very different sense of motion pictures 12 years later, as part of a nickelodeon audience, viewing a series of short films projected on a wall screen. Then again, just eight years later, in 1914, he or she would have an equally different sense of motion pictures as a spectator, sitting comfortably in a palace cinema, engrossed in a feature-length film, accompanied by orchestral music. Yet these three sites — the Kinetoscope parlor, nickelodeon, and palace cinema — hardly convey the wide range of venues, noncommercial as well as commercial, that screened motion pictures during those years. What follows stages a panorama of those venues, moving more or less chronologically through a series of major stages in the transformation of exhibition, and linking those stages to parallel changes in how motion pictures were distributed.

Keywords:

  • amusement parks;
  • cinema circuits;
  • family vaudeville;
  • high-class vaudeville;
  • nickelodeons;
  • nontheatrical venues;
  • programming;
  • traveling showmen