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Silent Screens the Decline and Transformation of the American Movie Theater

by Michael Putnam

  • ISBN: 9780801863295
  • ISBN10: 0801863295

Silent Screens the Decline and Transformation of the American Movie Theater

by Michael Putnam

  • List Price: $51.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ Pr
  • Publish date: 06/01/2000
  • ISBN: 9780801863295
  • ISBN10: 0801863295
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Description: The single-screen movie theaters that punctuated small-town America's main streets and city neighborhoods since the 1920s are all but gone. The well-dressed throng of moviegoers has vanished; the facades are boarded. In Silent Screens, photographer Michael Putnam captures these once prominent cinemas in decline and transformation. His photographs of abandoned movie houses and forlorn marquees are an elegy to this disappearing cultural icon.

In the early 1980s, Putnam began photographing closed theaters, theaters that had been converted to other uses (a church, a swimming pool), theaters on the verge of collapse, theaters being demolished, and even vacant lots where theaters once stood. The result is an archive of images, large in quantity and geographically diffuse. Here is what has become of the Odeons, Strands, and Arcadias that existed as velvet and marble outposts of Hollywood drama next to barbershops, hardware stores, and five-and-dimes.

Introduced by Robert Sklar, the starkly beautiful photographs are accompanied by original reminiscences on moviegoing by Peter Bogdanovich, Molly Haskell, Andrew Sarris, and Chester H. Liebs as well as excerpts from the works of poet John Hollander and writers Larry McMurtry and John Updike. Sklar begins by mapping the rise and fall of the local movie house, tracing the demise of small-town theaters to their role as bit players in the grand spectacle of Hollywood film distribution. "Under standard distribution practice", he writes, "a new film took from six months to a year to wend its way from picture palace to Podunk (the prints getting more and more frayed and scratched along the route). Even though the small-town theaters and their urbanneighborhood counterparts made up the majority of the nation's movie houses, their significance, in terms of revenue returned to the major motion-picture companies that produced and distributed films, was paltry".

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