Standard Article

The Imagined Audience in the Nickelodeon Era

1. Origins to 1928

2. Origins to 1914

  1. Richard Butsch

Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf004

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

How to Cite

Butsch, R. 2011. The Imagined Audience in the Nickelodeon Era. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. 1:2:4.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

Abstract

The nickelodeon era press described movies as the “poor man's amusement.” Early film histories wove this image into their historical fabric. Pioneering cinema historian Terry Ramsaye reasoned that, due to the nickelodeon's cheap admission, “the motion picture theatre rose in the foreign labor centers of the great cities.” Only after this did movies spread “into the hinterlands,” as he phrased it (1926, 431). In the 1970s, a few young film historians, pursuing a new social history of the working class, reinvigorated this conception of nickelodeon audiences, seeing in them evidence of the lower classes as actors in and agents of history, rather than “dupes” of ruling-class ideology. However, other film historians argued for a more diverse audience that they saw in middle-class neighborhoods and outside urban areas. The differences sparked an intensive debate. After a few years of quiescence, the debate was revived by an article in Cinema Journal.1

Keywords:

  • nickelodeon;
  • audiences;
  • early cinema;
  • movie palace;
  • combination houses