“Everywoman” at the Grand Theatre in Salem, Oregon

On September 4, 1920, the Capital Journal in Salem, Oregon, posted an ad for the black and white silent film, Everywoman. The ad portrays pictures of all the actors and actresses, including lead actress Violet Heming at the top center, proclaiming the presentation of the film by Jesse L. Lasky and “A Paramount Artcraft Picture.” According to the American Film Institute Catalog, the film was about 7 reels long, with a publication date of December 1919. The original publication date provides the information that Everywoman took almost a year before reaching the town of Salem for a showing, also shown by the date of the published advertisement.

The Capital Journal ad then describes Everywoman as “The imperishable Story of a Woman’s Heart – The sublime spectacle of lavish beauty. The Picture Beautiful Beyond Words.” Following the film description is a list of prices; 50 cents for the lower floor and balcony, 35 cents for the gallery, and 15 cents for children.

Capital Journal, Sept. 4, 1920, p. 2

This film was to be played in the newly renovated Grand Theatre, previously known as the Grand Opera House, as told in a previous Capital Journal article almost a month prior to the Everywoman newspaper ad. This begs the question, was Everywoman the first film to be shown in the brand new Grand Theatre? The timeline would match up, with the article announcing the renovation published on August 12, 1920, and the ad for Everywoman published on September 4, 1920, giving a little over a month for renovation and enough time to advertise the first feature to be shown. If this theory is correct, then it would also tell us that Everywoman was a relatively successful film, as the owner of the advertisement and newly renovated theatre would want to start off with a popular showing in order to create some excitement in the city and some revenue for the Grand Theatre.

The First Motion Picture Shown at the White House!

Advertisement for Caberia at Norm Theatre in Monmouth, OR
“CABERIA”: Earth’s Greatest Spectacle! – 1916

In this advertisement for “Caberia” in Monmouth, Oregon from the May 19, 1916 issue of the Monmouth Herald, the advertisement found on page 6 makes great exclamations about this film “CABERIA” coming to the town. With exclamations such as “Nothing like it ever before in Monmouth”, “Earth’s Greatest Spectacle”, and “The Wonder and Marvel of the Present Era”, we are able to deduce the true popularity and success that this film had cultivated in the town of Monmouth. When finding this advertisement, the phrase that stuck out most to me was “Precisely as shown at the White House.” I found this phrase interesting to include in an advertisement all the way in Monmouth, Oregon and I began to wonder about the origins of this phrase and why the manager of the theater and/or the advertiser decided to include this information and what they were referring to with its inclusion within the advertisement. Upon further research into the matter I found that the newspaper had actually misspelled the popular Italian film of the time, Cabiria (1914). During my research, I learned that Cabiria was “the first motion picture to be screened on the grounds of the White House” (Drees). With this historically significant fact taken into consideration, we can begin to understand the true impact that this film had not only on the town of Monmouth, Oregon, but the United States as a whole.

Though the advertisement does not include much information about the film itself other than length (“12 Big Reels”) and run time (“3 Hours Entertainment!”), the positive reception of the film speaks volumes for the film and sufficiently advertises that this film is one not to miss. With the main focus of the advertisement to publicize the coming hit attraction to Norm Theater, the advertisement also includes the admission cost and states that “all seats reserved for evening performance.” This phrase further indicates the true success of this film by demonstrating that seats must be reserved in advance in order for citizens to view the film. With the influence of newspaper articles and advertisements driving the success of numerous theaters and motion picture programs, we can see firsthand with this advertisement how true success and influence was cultivated within the town of Monmouth, Oregon for the film. Through the inclusion of these overly positive phrases, we can see how the manager and/or advertiser were able to manipulate and persuade the citizens of Monmouth, Oregon to go to Norm Theater in order to view the film.

Works Cited:

“Caberia.” The Monmouth Herald [Monmouth], 19 May 1916, p. 6.

Drees, Rich. “ Italian Silent Classic Cabiria Restored.” Italian Silent Classic Cabiria Restored, 23 Mar. 2006,

www.filmbuffonline.com/News/2006/CabiriaRestored.htm.

The Pastime Theatre – Pendleton, Oregon circa 1916

In the September 21, 1916 edition of the East Oregonian there appears an advertisement for the Pastime Theatre, located in Pendleton, Oregon. The ad is part of a page headed “Pictures and Plays in Pendleton,” although the page itself consists exclusively of advertisements outlining the appeals of various Pendleton theaters and containing no actual information about the pictures showing.

Pastime Theatre advertisement. East Oregonian, September 21, 1916, p. 5.

This advertisement’s strategy for promoting the Pastime is primarily threefold. It focuses on the film companies whose films the Pastime shows, the stars who appear in those films, and the Pastime’s practice of only booking films “which have made good in larger cities.” This latter element seems to be especially important, as it is advertised in bold type with the statement “The only theater in Pendleton using the open booking system.” This copy implies a greater degree of selectiveness and therefore quality in the films that the Pastime shows, differentiating it from its competition.

Even in 1916, only about five years after newspapers began to carry content related to photoplays, name recognition of stars and production companies (Fox, Mutual, and V.L.S.E. are named in this ad) served as a major promotional strategy for at least one Pendleton theater. Charlie Chaplin is the only star mentioned in the ad who is still recognizable, but William Farnum and Clair Whitney are also advertised.

Additionally, the appearance of the tag lines “good music,” “courteous treatment,” and “best pictures” seem to sum up the Pastime’s brand image. The “courteous treatment” element is especially interesting, as it highlights the vestiges of the opera-house experience that characterized movie-going throughout the early twentieth century and contributed to the audience’s experience of “going to the movies.”

Of course the quality of the musical accompaniment was of great importance during the era of silent film, and a longer description, located elsewhere on the same page of the Eastern Oregonian, of the Pastime’s attractions asserts the quality of the three-piece orchestra employed by the theater.

Live Vaudeville Performances and Film: Linking Past with Future

“VAUDEVILLE AND MOVING PICTURE SHOW,” an advertisement in the November 27, 1909 edition of the La Grande Evening Observer describes a mixed-bill of upcoming entertainment to be viewed at the Scenic Theatre in all capital letters to grab readers’ attention. This cross-promotion of live and recorded entertainment is highly intentional.

In his article “Film Exhibition in Vaudeville: What We Learn From Keith-Albee Managers’ Reports”, scholar Michael Slowik argues that by “placing films within a vaudeville program, vaudeville lent film the early identity of a ‘vaudeville act’. As a vaudeville act, film was expected to be a culturally respectable entertainment that appealed to a diverse group of patrons.”

Slowik’s concept of promoting film alongside live vaudeville acts to increase audience recognition of film as a valid and celebrated form of entertainment in the early 1900s is made apparent in the La Grande Evening Observer Scenic Theatre advertisement. The advertisement reveals the double feature of vaudeville performances “O’NEAL AND MARION Burlesque on Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “THE KENMORES. Willie and the Dolls” alongside “two reels of moving pictures.” The vaudeville performances would likely draw the crowd in for the film to follow, with hopes of building a future audience for film-only events that would potentially cost less money and require less organized planning than live vaudeville performances.

In addition to the format of the Scenic Theatre’s bill of upcoming entertainment, the content itself is worth discussing. With O’Neal and Marion’s burlesque show’s titular reference to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an audience member would likely expect elements of blackface minstrelsy and other racially charged material. (Stowe’s ‘Uncle Tom’ became synonymously used a derogatory term describing a subservient black man.) As cited by historical records in Oregon Blue Book, “African-Americans were unequivocally not wanted.” Exclusionist and Free Soil beliefs solidified Oregon’s early attitude on race, declaring it both ‘anti-slave’ and ‘anti-black’. Material such as blackface minstrelsy would likely be unsurprising and well received in an Oregon community such as La Grande, even in the early 1900s.

Examination of the Scenic Theatre’s advertisement in the La Grande Evening Observer offers primary insight into both the movement to use live vaudeville performances to draw audiences to film, as well as to the frightening reality of Oregon’s roots in racism. In this way, it is clear that live vaudeville performances had the capacity to act as agents of change towards the future, as well as pieces of historic preservation highlighting a problematic past.

REFERENCES:

Beecher Stowe, Harriet. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. John P. Jewett and Company, 1852.

La Grande Evening Observer, 27 Nov. 1909.

Oregon Blue Book: Oregon History: Statehood to Present, bluebook.state.or.us/cultural/history/historypost.htm.

Slowik, Michael. “Film Exhibition in Vaudeville: What We Learn from Keith-Albee Managers Reports.” Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film, vol. 39, no. 2, 2012, pp. 73–92. Manchester University Press, doi:10.7227/nctf.39.2.5.

 

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.

Sunset Theater: Have You Motion Picture Talent?

     

 

This advertisement for the Sunset Theater in The Sunday Oregon features slapstick comedian Charlie Chaplin alongside the venue’s screenings for the week of October 8th, 1916. The advertisement prominently features two films including Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players Film Company production of The World’s Greatest Snare starring Pauline Frederick and distributed by Paramount Pictures; as well as Mutual Film Corporation’s The Count starring Charlie Chaplin

     This particular advertisement for the Portland Oregon theater is unique in its promotion of a talent scouting contest. “Have You Motion Picture Talent?” the advertisement asks in large bold letters, prominently outlining the opportunity for “three boys” and “three girls” to be chosen to take part in a motion picture created by the Oregon Film Producing Company. Each Portland high school is set to nominate pupils from their institution to be shot in a “characteristic pose in motion picture” to be shown onscreen to voting attendants at the Sunset Theater.

     While the prominent image of Charlie Chaplin promotes the theater’s current screenings for the week, the promotional motion picture contest proves that theaters were more than merely a place to watch films in Oregon in 1916. The Sunset Theater is one of many theaters in Oregon at this time to be involved in the culture and community of moviegoing. Interaction with members of the community by holding a competition for high school students indicates the popularity of film with younger audiences, or an attempt to attract a younger demographic to moviegoing.

      Unlike advertisements of today, which commonly include contact information and addresses, both are unavailable in this piece. Times of screenings and cost of tickets are unspecified, and further research is required to find the original location of the Sunset Theater.

-Shelby Chapman

Source:

Sunset Theater. “Have You Motion Picture Talent?” The Sunday Oregonian [Portland], 6 Oct. 1916.

https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn83045782/1916-10-08/ed-1/seq-54/print/image_672x817_from_0,0_to_5681,6901/

Automatic Theatre, Astoria

Above is an advertisement for “Automatic The Rea” a theater in Astoria, Oregon, published in the Morning Astorian newspaper in September of 1908. The advertisement is both short and concise. The most important parts of the advertisement are either large or bolded to attract attention. Something else that I noticed was that this advertisement was specifically for a certain day. The word “tonight” is largely printed making sure that people understand that they do not want to miss the performance. It is hard to say if there was a limited number of showings of this performance, which consists of numerous films including an illustrated song called Won’t You Wait Nellie Dear.” There is a Matinee showing Sunday at 2:30, but besides that, any further showing is unknown. As we discussed in class, theaters never just showed one film. There were always numerous short films and sometimes one feature presentation.

“Automatic The RE.” Morning Astorian, 9 Sept, 1908

An interesting part of the advertisement was that there was an actual raffle available for all attendees of the theater. A “ladies’ gold watch” would be given to the lucky person whose ticket was picked. This is a very interesting way of promoting the theater, one that I did not expect to see. This watch is obviously targeted to get woman to ask their boyfriend or husband to take them to the theater in hopes of being the lucky one to win. For that time, it is a very intelligent way to sell more tickets.

Pricing is also an important part of the advertisement. At 5 cents for a child and 10 cents for an adult, this is an affordable show compared to some of the other advertisements that I looked at. With it being so early in the 1900’s. This cheap price makes sense for the time.

Finally, the last part of the advertisement I want to discuss is the way in which the advertisement explains the show. The terms “first class” and “latest” emphasize that this is a top-notch theater, and that the films being shown are not to miss. This along with the raffle gave very good reason for customers to see this advertisement and decide to go watch.

Movie Flourishes in the Jungle

Caption reads: “Testifying again to the popularity of the movies, here is a movie theater in a jungle. The “Louris Kinematograph” is situated in Rabaul, New Guinea. Every Saturday night, a show is held and the laughter of the savages can be heard for great distances.”

The “ad” for a theater that I have chosen to analyze today will actually create more questions than answers about the particular theater, setting, and the politics related with such. In the September 24th, 1920 Issue of Independence, Oregon’s “The Polk County Post”, included is a photo of a moving picture theater located in Rabaul, New Guinea. The title of the theater is is “Louris Kinematograph”, and why the theater was constructed as well as for what purpose it was included in this particular paper are inquiries worth pursuing.

We are given essentially no context for why this snippet was printed. The most likely case is that there was room on the page that they needed to fill and this sounded like an interesting, maybe “exotic” (exotic in a racist sense, as evidenced by the final sentence of the caption) tidbit to print. Interestingly, the first sentence of the caption sheds light on the relevance of film in society in general for that time with “Testifying again to the popularity of the movies…”. This implies that moving pictures were so socially relevant at the time, that the fact that this seemingly non-sequitur-esque snippet was included was inherently contextual in that movies were in the forefront of most people’s minds at that time.

The theater itself is, as much as we can discern from the photo, in an area lush with vegetation, which apparently gave the editor the freedom to imply that the theater is located in the wilderness, despite the fact that this is not the case in all likelihood. The caption tells us that the theater plays shows every Saturday night. As we have learned so far in class, movie theaters ironically used to be more multifaceted in their utilization than they are presently. Often theaters were the sites of social activities, other forms of art/entertainment, etc., which leads to the question of: What was this space being utilized for when it wasn’t a Saturday night?

Something else to investigate would be who was attending this theater. A quick Wikipedia search reveals that the area was captured by the British Empire during the 1910’s in a war-related acquisition. Could the venue have originally been constructed to provide troops entertainment on Saturday nights as opposed to catering to the Native population?

What is revealing about this is the blatant racism on display in the final sentence of the caption. So flippantly referring to the people of Rabaul as “savages” puts into perspective how socially acceptable such mindsets were in the early 20th century, and compounded with Oregon’s ironically anti-progressive history with the treatment of minorities and non-Western peoples, it’s certainly worth taking note of. Overall, it’s fascinating how the history of moving picture exhibition can lead to such intersectional inquiries and discoveries.

Sources:

“Movie Flourishes in the Jungle”. The Polk County Post, 24, Sept 1920.

“Rabaul” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabaul

Pendleton, Oregon: ‘The Pastime Theatre’

I chose to focus on the ‘Pastime Theatre’ in Pendleton, Oregon. This theater opened in 1906 during March. They promised to show only movies that came from licensed companies which meant that the audience could expect the quality of the movies to be superb. Also, not all movie theaters allowed women and children to be present in their buildings during this time period; however, at the ‘Pastime Theatre’ women and children were indeed welcome. However, in the photo that was included in the newspaper, it looks like only middle-aged men and possibly one young boy were pictured. It would be nice to know how often women and children truly attended these theaters. They were a family friendly theater; material that may have been offensive would not be shown. Moreover, the newspaper expressed that this theaters ventilation system was one of its best features. Families could depend on the theater to be a place to escape the horrendous heat during the hot months of the year. This is important because as expressed by the author Rae Hark, average citizens did not have air conditioning in their homes during this time because it was a luxury that not many could afford (13). However, in this case, taking a trip to the ‘Pastime Theatre’ meant that these citizens who did not have access to air conditioning were able to enjoy a break from the heat during their viewing of the film(s). Also, since women were welcome in their theater, one can imagine that this theater served as an escape to get out of the house where they spent most of their time. In fact, the theme of theaters serving as an escape from the house can extend to everyone, and it is still prevalent to this day. Moreover, this theater was proud to state that they were using an Edison machine to project their films because the popular belief was that this machine was the best made one at this time; using the Edison machine ensured that the audience would not experience flickering during the film. An interesting and sort of humorous part is when they expressed that their curtain was made by a ‘secret manufacturer’ and that it was the only one in the city; it makes one wonder why the manufacturer was kept a secret. They also included the admission prices which was 10 cents for adults and 5 cents for children. Overall, it seems as if this theater appealed to families (all ages and genders); however, we are not explicitly told what groups were not allowed in this theater. Also, they ensured that their audience would only be receiving the best films that were from licensed companies and that the Edison machine would guarantee no flickering during their experience.

Works Cited:

Hark, R. (n.d.). Exhibition, the Film Reader. In Focus, 1-15.

The Pastime Theatre. (1906). East Oregonian (EO) [Pendleton].