Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nickelodeon Plan

Source: Moving Picture World 28 March 1908

Here is a cut-away drawing of a nickelodeon theater from 1908. The article that this picture illustrates concerns theater safety; hence the annotation: "The only exits." Note that the exits are both located next to projector room, and, at the time, fires were extremely common due to the flammable nature of the film stock. Obviously, a theater constructed in this manner was not particularly safe, and there were frequent campaigns at the time to regulate theaters to avoid floor plans such as this one.

But theater safety is not what drew my interest to this drawing. Instead, the piano situated oddly along the right edge intrigued me. Notice how difficult it would be to see the screen from the position of a player. The obvious implication is that pianist was not expected to play to the film. Actually, given the limited space, it seems quite probable that this is actually supposed to represent a player piano.

(For large size scan (2100 × 1344), double click on the image)

1 comment:

  1. I used this image as the principal visual aid for half my lecture on earliest film practices. After a few preliminaries, I discussed the image in detail and set the geographical, commercial, and production-performance contexts for nickelodeon-era film. I even turned the room's piano around and accompanied part of a 5-minute film from 1909 in the manner suggested by the image, then followed that with Martin Marks' recorded track, which is faithful to the "playing the picture" aesthetic.