Tuesday, March 17, 2009

still shots in movie houses

It is early in the twentieth century, and movie houses are springing up all over the country. During this time, nickelodeons were being replaced by a new industry. The emerging movie houses were given regal names such as the "Majestic," the "Imperial," and the "Plaza." Patrons were happy to pay the price of a movie ticket, usually 10 cents, to see the latest moving picture show. At first, single reels of film were projected onto the big screen. By 1907, multiple reels of film were spliced together and presented as feature films. Early audiences were lured into the movie houses not only by the western feature shown every Saturday but also by the promise of seeing still shots of themselves up on the big screen.

Traveling photographers earned a living, moving from town to town, taking photos of local people, especially children and nearby scenes of interest to show on the screen of the local movie house. The photographers were paid not only by the movie house owner who knew that local shots would be popular attractions, but they were also paid by the parents for the children's photographs. Eventually, these still shots of local people and places were replaced by newsreels of current news events, such as the world wars in Europe. These newsreels, precursors of the evening news now watched nightly, showed flickering images of real men going off to battle. The reels played before the main feature and were eagerly awaited reports of current events in the world.

I think it would have been absolutely fascinating to be a photographer back in that time!

If your interested in this kind of thing, you can check out the history on the Monterey State Theater highlighted in this link.

When Charlie and I are in Monterey, we always try to see a movie in this theater during our visit. It is truly beautiful! Do you have any special memories of a particular theater?

* I want to thank those of you who commented on my previous post for all of your kind words.

Muah ~ it was heart felt!


  1. it must have been such an exciting time ... i would have loved to have been a traveling photographer back then :-)

  2. When I was a child during the WWII, it was the practice of the chamber of commerce (yeah we really had one) in my tiny town to have movie for a nickel each in a warm building every Saturday night. I loved the dancing hippos in the cartoons.

    Then in the summertime they showed a cartoon, with the news reels and a movie for free in a natural amphitheater where cars parked at the top and everyone sat on the grass (mowed weeds) at varying heights on their own blankets and watched the show on the side of the building where the movies were shown in the winter. You could walk across the street to the general store and pick up a bottle of pop (soda to easterners) or a candy bar if you got a nickel each week. If not, you drooled a lot. I ate Brown Cows in the summer, not because I liked them so well, but you could wrap them up and have some the next day too. Not exactly a Palace or Majestic experience, but it is what we had without driving 17 miles one way (gas rationing) to an actual theatre. I spent many an evening enjoying old shows in that little tiny town.

  3. The old Merced movie house, remember it was like a place and I remember seeing my first Disney film there
    Song of the South! they are redesigning it back to it's original look last time I was there Kiel and I saw an old Audrey Hepburn movie

    Thanks for the memories

    love ya

  4. Growing up we went to a downtown Turlock Theater... It burned down years ago.

    And who can forget the drive-ins ~~
    Lucky Drive across from the Fair Grounds...that was in the 50's.

    I love the movie with James Carey "Majestic".

    Love and Hugs

  5. We still have faded walls, painted with things like this here in our town.
    Where I grew up our favourite cinema was the 'Central'. It was Art Deco, and beautiful inside. We would watch the Pathe news before the main feature, and there was often a cartoon as well. It is closed now, so I'm told, rather sad really, as it was a work of art.