“The Jazz Singer” at Bligh’s Capitol Theatre

   

Above is an advertisement for the musical program, The Jazz Singer, at Bligh’s Capitol Theatre in Salem Oregon. This advertisement was published in the Statesman Journal on 22 July, 1928.

In relation to other advertisements on the page, this one was the most eye-catching due to its boldness. A disadvantage to this advertisement is it does not have any information about the price and dates of showing. It might have been at the bottom of the advertisement, but overtime and through digitizing it’s no longer there. 

This advertisement is interesting, particularly because of the program. The Jazz Singer was the first feature film with synchronized speech, which explains the use of ‘vitaphone’ and ‘movietone’ across the middle of the advertisement. The exhibitor wanted the focus of the advertisement to be on the brand new kind of program viewing in order to get the maximum amount of viewers. This also attributed to the popularity of the program. The Jazz Singer, was released in October of 1927, which means this program was available in Salem in less than a year. This further illustrates the programs level of popularity, considering the population and Westward location of Salem.

This program also had a big-time entertainer, Al Jolson. While Jolson was extremely popular among program goers, it is also important to acknowledge the racism embedded in the entertainment industry. Al Jolson did the majority of his programs in blackface, and at the time this was not a problem. Jolson used racial stereotypes, and was still considered to be the ‘greatest entertainer’ of the time. While blackface is not encouraged in the entertainment industry anymore, it is still important to recognize how it was sensationalized and welcomed at one point in time.

 

        

For context, Bligh’s Capitol Theatre was located on State Street in Salem Oregon in 1926. It was built in 1926, and burned down in 1935. It was then rebuilt and stayed open until it was closed in the early 1990’s, and eventually torn down in 2000. Throughout its lifespan the Theatre remained in the same location but the street names changed over time. 

 

Cited:

Statesman Journal, 22 July. 1928, pg 2.

Digital Sanborn Maps. Sheet 109. Image

Portland State University and the Oregon Historical Society. “Capitol Theatre (Salem).” The Oregon Encyclopedia, oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/capitol_theater_salem_/#.WuDvEYjwZm9

“Al Jolson Biography.” Biography, www.biography.com/people/al-jolson-9356888

A Big Year for the Arcade Theatre

            

As I continue to do research on theatres in La Grande, Oregon from 1914-1921, I ran across an article in the La Grande Evening Observer which states that in the spring of 1916, the Arcade Theatre was going to remodel. The news came from the newest manager of the Arcade Theatre, Mrs. H. B. Leiter. So far this is also the only theatre I have come across with a female manager. Mrs. Leiter was going to remove the vaudeville shows entirely from the theatre. She claims that the movies are becoming higher in quality, and that is what audiences really want to watch, not vaudeville. Mrs. Leiter also reminds the readers/audience that they are seeing the same quality pictures for 10 cents, that others are seeing in Portland for 15 cents, as a way to entice them to continue coming to the Arcade.

I have no real explanation as to why Mrs. Leiter would remove vaudeville from the theatre, except that around that time, there were traveling movie showings. Calvin Pryluck talks more about these traveling movie showings, explaining that they had a circuit they would travel, stopping in towns large and small, and showing their movies. While Pryluck couldn’t find evidence, there are stories of some of these itinerant movie showings traveling around Eastern Oregon up until the 1950’s.

For Mrs. Leiter, these itinerant movies could have been a problem for her business if they were able to show a wider variety of movies, while she was showing vaudeville and movies. The second article, which was found directly underneath the first, talks about how Mrs. Leiter is also going to redecorate the theatre to make it new and attractive. She states that she wants everyone to feel at home while at the Arcade, as well as how well taken care of the children will be, especially since from time to time, the Arcade will play specific movies directed towards the children. The remodel, as well as the language directed at the family, could possibly be another way in which Mrs. Leiter is competing against the itinerant shows. While we may never know exactly why Mrs. Leiter was remodeling the theatre and removing vaudeville shows, she was at least making her mark on the Arcade Theatre.

La Grande Evening Observer, 4 Jan. 1916, p.8

“The Itinerant Movie Show and the Development of The Film Industry” Hollywood In The Neighborhood (Calvin Pryluck): 37-52

The Roseburg Theater

This ad, found in Roseburg’s newspaper The Plaindealer, takes the form of a short article. It is important to note that the opposite page of this particular newspaper issue has another ad for the Roseburg Theater that is more eye-catching. I think this part of the advertisement gives us, as historians, more information about the event and what was going on at the theater. This advertisement is for an event that takes place over a Friday and Saturday in July, which features The Groesbacks (a performance from a live band), and showing of The Great Train Robbery, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and several sporting events and news reels. In addition, the article specifically mentions the theater’s “improved” Vitagraph, which could potentially draw a bigger audience who are curious about the new equipment and how it affects their moviegoing experience. The headlining feature films were also very popular and groundbreaking at the time, so that could be another way the theater is trying to attract a crowd.

I think the target audience is the general public. Because the events take place on Friday and Saturday, when people have more free time, the Roseburg Theater could mainly be targeting families and working class people. Some things that cannot be inferred from this advertisement are if the theater allowed people of color to attend (this is worth considering since segregation was not nationally outlawed until the 1950s and 1960s and Oregon’s constitution was extremely prejudiced against black people) or how many audience members these events attracted. Also, I am curious about the size of the theater. Was this a smaller theater found on the main street of the town, like most theaters in small towns at the time? Or was this theater a large “movie palace?” These questions are not answered in the advertisement, but I would be interested to gather more research about this theater.

“The Plaindealer.” The Plaindealer, 6 July 1905, p. 3.

The Iron Claw

Pathe exchange advertises their movie “The Iron Claw”  and the Serial that will be published in the Sunday Oregonian above. The advertisements are for the release date of April 3rd 1916 as well as the story that will be released in the Oregonian previous to the release date of the film. The first ad describes how audiences can read the story in the paper beforehand and then see it in the theater the following week. As we have learned sound on film was not introduced until 1927 therefore “The Iron Claw” would have been a silent film. While the film was most likely accompanied by a band or music of some sort having the story published in detail in the Oregonian beforehand could have helped audiences to understand the story more thoroughly. Additionally, having the story published would have drawn viewers in just as a trailer would serve to attract movie goers presently. Furthermore, the ad lists the actors in the film as well as their previous popular films that they have been in. We have learned that it was common practice for studios and their films to build popularity for their movie off the stars in it. The second ad is from the next week (April 2nd) and presents the story, while additionally serving as an advertisement for the film that will debut the following day at the Pantages Theater in Portland. As we have learned previously in class it was common for films to play at only one or a small amount of theaters. This would bring people from many towns away to see movies because they would not be playing near their home. While the advertisement does list theaters that “The Iron Claw” would be playing at on later dates it was very common that a movie would not reach these theaters for many weeks, months, or even years after it originally premiered.

Works Cited

Pathe Exchange. “The New Motion Picture Serial”. The Sunday Oregonian [Portland], 26 March 1916, p. 7.

Pathe Exchange. “The Iron Claw”. The Sunday Oregonian [Portland], 2 April 1916, p. 7.

Theaters, Newspaper, and Prizes

The Morning Astorian in Astoria, Oregon ran this ad for the Automatic Theater September 13, 1908. This short article gives the reader all the information they would need to go see a movie as well as incentivizes them to go. Right below the headline and name of the theater, there is the address or location of the theater, then it tells the reader that it is a “first class moving picture show”. Below that, in bold letters to get the reader attention, the article lists which movies it is playing that night, as well as an illustrated song. Then it gives the admission prices for adults and children and the time that it will be starting. To let the readers know when to look again for something new, the article tells them that there is a change in program Wednesday and Sunday. Finally the ad incentivizes them to go to the theater, by stating that they are giving away a “ladies gold watch” and that every person who goes to the theater will receive a numbered ticket. It finishes off the ad by stating that the drawing will be held October 1st.

Newspapers played an important part for theaters around the country at the time. The theaters needed the newspapers as a way to draw in large audiences, and the newspapers needed theaters to advertise in the paper as a way for the paper to make money. Abel explaines it as, “Sunday editions looked and functioned some-what like department stores, and a version of the ‘display’ ads that lured customers into the stores soon filled whole newspaper pages, becoming a major source of revenue.” (Abel, 10). So it makes sense that the Automatic Theater would inform the readers that next Sunday, it would release it’s change in program to fit along side all the other advertisements in the Sunday paper. It is also interesting to note that many of these advertisements were aimed at women. Abel also says, “85 per cent of the advertising in newspapers and magazines, with the exception of the classified and financial, is dedicated to women and articles women purchase.” (Abel, 10). Which might explain why the Automatic Theater included the prize of a ladies gold watch.

It’s easy to see why theaters and newspapers were such a good match.

Morning Astorian, 13 Sep. 1908, p. 8

“The Newspaper, a Cultural Partner of the Movies,” ​Menus for Movieland,
​ Richard Abel, p. 6-20

Waldorf Concert Hall in Astoria, Oregon (Kinetoscope)

I find it most interesting that people review, especially in this advert, kinetoscope films as much more narratively driving than they really are. That is a feeling I can only experience because of how advanced films are in the modern world, so what might be narratively strong at the start of the 20th century is much more dinky and obsolete to me. That being said, as far as exhibition of early film goes the entertainment industry made the right call by turning already used theatres into a platform to display early cinema. To my understanding, they would often display kinetoscopes in the lobbies of theatre/concert halls for audiences to put a nickel in and experience a short animation. I suppose it is important to recognize the early advancements in exhibition technology as astronomically critical for what our modern movie theatres look like today.

Furthermore, the narratives of these early pictures interest me because of their evolution to support a more economically friendly platform. At first, films were simply realist-based situations like the works of the Lumiere Bros.’ “The Train Arrives at The Station”. However, shortly after, as movie houses became established more fantastical elements of the narrative were introduced and highly favored. The audiences started becoming more “well-to-do” and also very diverse as it was not only affordable but exhibitors weren’t very biased about the audience they attract into their theatres. Without this diversity, it would have taken a while for studios to make any sort of strong profit from their investment in the exhibition of their films as well as the production.

Another interesting thing to post here is that there was a very early understanding of how to market to both adult and children in the theatre. Charging half price for children because perhaps the parents might be more inclined to bring them to the theatre as well. Imagine a parent helping their child reach the eye line of the kinetoscope and holding them there for 10-50 seconds. Priceless. 🙂

Hark, Ina Rae. Exhibition, the Film Reader. Routledge, 2002.

The Morning Astorian, Nov 2. 1906