Monday, January 18, 2010

Movies, movies everwhere

When we consider silent film - we might be tempted to think it was not only a less  sophisticated art form, but a less ubiquitous medium than today. But that's not true. Back in the 1920's, silent films seemed to play just about everywhere. Even exotic fair, like Metropolis, was shown in American cities both large and small. Movies were shown not only in theaters, but also in other non traditional venues like churches, businesses, hospitals, retirement homes, and even army bases.

Shown here is a scan of a "Celebrate Paramount Week" advertisement which ran in the local newspapers in 1926. This kind of ad is not unique to San Francisco. In fact, similar advertisements from the mid-1920's can be found in newspapers across the country.

What makes this advertisement so revealing is the extensive listing of San Francisco, Bay Area, and Northern California theaters. All of the venues listed here - including the various "irregular exhibition spaces" like hospitals, retirement homes and army bases - participated in Paramount Week and showed films for patrons.

This advertisement - and the names and locales of the theaters contained within - acts as a kind of Rosetta Stone in helping document the local exhibition of films in the 1920's.

Who knew, for example, that there were three movie theaters in the Presidio of San Francisco? Or that there was a theater at the Post Exchange on Mare Island?

Or that the P.T.A. in Alpanga showed films? As did the Fire Department in Belvedere, the State Hospital in Stockton, the High School in Gonzales, and the Mt. Shasta Power Company in Mt. Shasta? And don't forget the K. of  P. Hall in Etna Mills, or the Opera House in McCloud, or the Sugar Pine Amusement Co. in Sugar Pine.

If you live in Northern California or nearby Nevada, you will likely enjoy scouring this advertisement for a theater near you. Because of its fine print, we've posted a large scan. Double-clicking on the image will reveal its full size. Isn't it impressive how many movie theatres there were back in the 1920's? They seemed to be located just about everywhere!

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