Hometown Show: Early Movie Theaters in Eugene and Springfield

By Peterson, Elizabeth | Oregon Historical Quarterly, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Hometown Show: Early Movie Theaters in Eugene and Springfield


Peterson, Elizabeth, Oregon Historical Quarterly


IN 1909 at the Electric Theatre in Springfield, Oregon, owner J.J. Bryan ran the movie projector while his wife Maude Bryan sold tickets. Their young daughter Crystal slept in the back of the theater while the movies played. Audience members each paid a dime to see a two-hour show that could include short features and comedies, travelogues, boxing films, and vaudeville performers. While J.J. Bryan changed film reels, he showed colored slides up on the screen to keep the audience interested. (1) He was already a seasoned theater owner by this time, having in 1908 operated the Grand Theater, across Main Street in downtown Springfield. He went on to run the Bell in Springfield; and in nearby Eugene, he owned the Aloha, the Folly, the Oregon, and the Savoy theaters.

Bryan's entrepreneurial zest for the movies exemplifies the dynamic state of movie theaters in small-town America before 1920. He was one of a handful of local theater owners who helped introduce and nurture movie-going as a leisure activity in two small Oregon cities, Eugene and Springfield. As early as 1904, the Bijou Theatre in Eugene included movies in its programming, and by 1909, Eugene and Springfield supported six theaters for a combined population of only about ten thousand people. (2) It may seem surprising that small-town Oregon could provide so many opportunities to see movies early in the twentieth century, but the popularity of movies in Eugene and Springfield was not unique. "Nearly all of America's urban communities of any size had permanent movie shows by 1910," writes the communications scholar Douglas Gomery. (3) The development of movie theaters in these two Oregon towns was consistent with trends in small towns and in larger urban areas elsewhere in the United States.

Nickelodeon theaters appeared all over the United States in cities and towns in response to the massive popularity of movies at the turn of the twentieth century. Nickelodeons, named for the five-cent admission they typically charged, were most often located in small, storefront spaces in the heart of commercial districts with easy access to public transportation and where they could capitalize on potential audience from passersby. Nickelodeon theaters had few of the comforts and luxuries, such as cushioned seats, ice-cooled air, and ornamented interiors, that patrons would enjoy in the grand movie theaters built after 1910. The average nickelodeon had fewer than two hundred seats, and the audience sat on wooden chairs or benches in buildings that often had poor ventilation. The theaters regularly featured live or recorded music to accompany the silent films. (4) Until the 1910s, the programs usually included vaudeville acts and other live entertainment along with the films. The Bell Theatre in Springfield hired a succession of teenage girls to play piano, while the Dreamland Theatre boasted of having a Reginaphone--a type of phonograph player--for sound accompaniment to enhance the film experience. (5)

Until recently, research on the nickelodeon era of U.S. film history (1905-1915) has predominantly focused on urban areas, even though, during this period, most of the population lived in small towns like Eugene and Springfield. (6) According to Robert C. Allen, many of the assumptions about nickelodeon theaters were just that --assumptions--with little concrete evidence to support them. His detailed study of early nickelodeon movie theaters in New York City sought to counter previous sweeping generalizations about the theaters being located primarily in poor urban neighborhoods and patronized by largely immigrant audiences. Allen used business directories, detailed census information, and fire insurance maps to draw conclusions about the number, size, and audience makeup of theaters in specific neighborhoods throughout the city. His findings revealed a much more diverse movie-going population in terms of class and ethnicity than previous research had suggested. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Hometown Show: Early Movie Theaters in Eugene and Springfield
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.