There was a time when seeing a movie meant more than seeing a film. The theater itself shaped the very perception of events onscreen. This multilayered history tells the story of American film through the evolution of theater architecture and the surprisingly varied ways movies were shown, ranging from Edison's 1896 projections to the 1968 Cinerama premiere of Stanley Kubrick's 2001. The study matches distinct architectural forms to movie styles, showing how cinema's roots in theater influenced business practices, exhibition strategies, and film technologies.
William Paul's illuminating new book arrives at a resonant moment, a pivot point in the history of motion picture spectatorship. Just as the very concept of "going to the movies" in a theatrical space seems under threat and antiquated, his informed and rigorous look back at what going to the moves once meant - culturally, aesthetically, and architecturally - seems particularly urgent and apt. When Movies Were Theater offers digital age moviegoers - screen watchers? - a fascinating and provocative study of the spaces in which we see movies.
Thomas Doherty, Brandeis University
When Movies Were Theater is a brilliantly argued, superbly researched study of the spaces and physical contexts that determine our experience of movies. Paul shows that the history of stage and screen has involved many architectural changes, and that the framing environment—whether indoors or out, whether at home or in a multiplex—decisively affects both the form of films and our understanding of them. His book is of groundbreaking importance and should be read by everyone with a serious interest in the ever-evolving medium of moving images.
James Naremore, author of An Invention without a Future: Essays on Cinema
When Movies Were Theater is an impressive achievement. William Paul demonstrates that the history of film should not – and cannot – be separated from the history of theatre, including the history of theatre buildings. A major accomplishment in research and analysis, Paul's book offers essential scholarship for both film scholars and theatre historians.
Thomas Postlewait, University of Washington
In this fascinating study, Bill Paul investigates the complex and ever changing theatrical space of motion picture exhibition. He also offers his insights into the unexpected ways that these spaces influenced film production––and vice versa.
Charles Musser, Yale University
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