Studio lots

Apologies for the short break while the Bioscope was taking a rest from the hypnotic screen and buying second-hand books in Hay-on-Wye instead…

Mabel Normand Studio

Mabel Normand Studio, from The Studio Lots

On one of my online travels, I came across the Studio Lots site. This is a collection of contemporary photographs and postcards of studios in Hollywood (and a few other places), with many from the silent era featured. It’s not going to win any design awards, and there are a lot of promises for background texts that haven’t been written as yet. But nevertheless, it’s a very handy selection, and you can see the Hal Roach Studio (8822 Washington Blvd), the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio (7200 Santa Monica Blvd), the Selig Studio (1845 Alessandro) and Culver City (9336 Washington Blvd), among many others. The addresses are useful, and there are backlots and ranches given as well. There’s also a Moving Picture World article from 1917 on the history of motion picture studios in California.

Well worth a wander through.

Non solo dive

Non solo dive

http://www.nonsolodive.com

More information is now available on Non solo dive (Not Only Divas), a conference and retrospective on women and silent Italian cinema. The conference takes place in Bologna, 14-16 December, and here’s the line-up:

Friday, December 14

2.30 PM – Welcoming addresses

3.00 PM-6.30 PM – Session I:

Jane Gaines – Duke University and Columbia University (USA)
Are They Us?: Our Work on Women Working in the International Silent Film Industry
Christine Gledhill – University of Sunderland (UK)
Rethinking Women’s Film History from Britain
Elda Guerra – Associazione Orlando
Beyond Boundaries: The Women’s Movement at the turn of the 20th Century, and the Emergence of a New Subjectivity

Alberto Friedemann – Associazione Fert
Women Entrepreneurs in the Turin Film Industry during the Silent Period
Andrea Palladino – Documentary Filmmaker
The Amazing Story of Frieda Klug: Research Hypothesis for a Documentary about the Origins of Italian Cinema

Discussion

Saturday, December 15

9.30 AM-1.00 PM – Session II:

Cristina Jandelli – University of Florence
“The Sharpest of Them All”: Diana Karenne
Teresa Antolin – Archivio in penombra
Elena and the Men: Francesca Bertini and Film Historiography
Elena Dagrada – State University of Milan
The Temptation of Silence: Eleonora Duse and the Cinema

Elena Mosconi – Catholic University of Milan
Divas and Anti-Divas in Early Italian Cinema: Elettra Raggio and Astrea
Valeria Palumbo – Journalist, L’Europeo
Viper: the Myth of Anna Fougez
Ester De Miro D’Ayeta – University of Genoa
Sewing Celluloid Ribbons: The Obscure Career of Esterina Zuccarone, Editor and Working Woman in Turin

Discussion

3.00 PM-6.30 PM – Session III:

Luca Mazzei – University of Florence
Alone in the Dark. Memories and Narratives of Italian Female Viewers between 1898 and 1916
Silvio Alovisio – University of Turin
The Image of the Spectatrix in the Italian Film Press of the Twenties
Gina Annunziata – University of Siena
Matilde Serao and the Cinema

Roberta Gandolfi – University of Parma
“New Women” of the Italian Theater between Reform and Tradition, Feminism and Modernism
Vittorio Martinelli – Italian Association for Research in Film History
Origins of the Italian Star System
Claudia Gianetto – Museo Nazionale del Cinema
Gigetta Morano: An “Irresistible Force”

Discussion

Sunday, December 16

10.00 AM – 1.00 PM – Session IV:

Kim Tomadjoglou – American Film Institute (USA)
Rethinking the Cinema of Elvira Notari
Irela Nuñez, Franca Farina – Cineteca Nazionale
Women’s Films of the Cineteca Nazionale: Restored and to be Restored
Micaela Veronesi – Italian Association for Research in Film History
A Woman Wants to “Recreate the World”. Umanità, by Elvira Giallanella

Stella Dagna – Museo Nazionale del Cinema
In the Giant’s Shadow. Second Lead Actresses in the Maciste series
Elena D’Amelio – University of Padua
Damned and Beautiful. Powerful Women of the Italian Epic Genre

Discussion

Monica Dall’Asta – University of Bologna
Conclusions

That’s an impressive, specialised but wide-ranging line-up, and to complement it there’s a retrospective of relevant films running 2-15 December at the Cinema Lumière, Bologna. The highlights are two new restorations: Elvira Giallanella’s pacifist film Umanità (1919), restored by the Cineteca Nazionale and the Orlando Association, and Elvira Notari’s ‘A Santanotte (1921), a Neapolitan melodrama, restored by the same institutions in association with George Eastman House. Notari is the subject of Giuliana Bruno’s influential study, Streetwalking on a Ruined Map, and is now something of a cult figure. There are other Notari films on show, a collection of comedienne Lea Giunchi’s short films, Cenere (1916) (the only film of the legendary stage actress Elenora Duse), Francesca Bertini and Gustavo Serena’s Assunta Spina (1915), Giulia Rizzotto’s A Mosca Cieca (1921), and more.

The full conference and retrospective programme is downloadable here (PDF, 212MB, in Italian), and the website www.nonsolodive.com (also in Italian) will be active from 26 November. Clearly, knowing Italian will help, but English translation will be provided throughout the conference.

The rationale behind the event is given in this earlier post.

Women silent filmmakers in Britain

I’ve just uploaded a revised version of my filmography, Women Silent Filmmakers in Britain, onto my personal site. The story behind this was first reported in the Women behind the camera post. Essentially it’s a filmography of women directors, producers, editors, scriptwriters and camera operators active in Britain in the silent. It’s still very much a work in progress, and any comments or corrections are most welcome.

The City of the Future

Carrington Street, Nottingham with 1902 inset

Carrington Street, Nottingham in 2003, with inset from Tram Ride Through Nottingham, Carrington Street (Mitchell & Kenyon, 1902)

An exhibition, The City of the Future, has just opened at the BFI Southbank. It has been created by the psychogeographical filmmaker Patrick Keiller, director of London (1994) and Robinson in Space (1997). Keiller is currently a Research Fellow at the Royal College of Art, where he has been developing his City of the Future research project. His exploration of urban space through archival film has found varied expressions. This multi-screen installation creates a virtual landscape composed of sixty-eight early actuality films from the years 1896-1909, arranged in the BFI Southbank gallery on a network of maps from the period, and displayed over five screens.

Keiller casts a fascinated eye on the mysteries of the urban environment as expressed through archive film which is so much a part of its time and yet can connect with the here and now. Keiller makes particular use of that distinctive genre of the period, the ‘phantom ride’ (which must be such an evocative phrase for him) – journeys filmed at the front or back of moving vehicles. One haunting expression of his vision is Keiller’s simple idea of placing the original film image within a wider frame of the same location filmed today, as illustrated above. The exhibition (which I’ve not seen as yet), also promises visitor interaction:

Visitors are invited to explore this landscape, both by moving among its various screens, and by departing from the sequences displayed on them to create an individual journey using the ‘menu’ functions of a DVD.

The site of Queensbury station in 2004, with inset from Queensbury Tunnel (Riley Brothers, 1898)

The site of Queensbury station in 2004, with inset from Queensbury Tunnel (Riley Brothers, 1898)

The exhibition is open until 3 February 2008. For other expressions of Keiller’s research, a description of The City of the Future and a downloadable ‘database’ (Excel) of titles from the BFI National Archive that he has viewed and identified as relevant to his investigations is on the Visual Arts Data Service website. There is also an account of his project as a ‘case study’ demonstrating the academic use of archive film on the Moving History site.

There’s an interview with Keiller about the exhibition on the Time Out site.

A striking example of phantom ride, A Trip on the Metropolitan Railway (1910), is available from the BFI’s Creative Archive pages. This is a remarkable, prolonged journey filmed from the front of an Underground train on London’s Metropolitan Line, travelling from Baker Street outwards to Uxbridge and Aylesbury. (The original is seventeen minutes long, but the downloadable clip is just under five minutes)

Electric Salome

Electric Salome

Princeton University Press

Electric Salome is the title of a recent book by Rhonda K. Garelick, which is her term to describe Loïe Fuller (1862-1928), one of the key performance artists of the late-19th/early 20th centuries. Fuller was a pioneer of modern dance, who made use of modern stage technologies of lighting and colour to create startling visual effects, particularly through her Serpentine Dance, where her swirling dresses combined with changing colour lighting to create haunting, phantasmagorical effects. She was beloved by artists and poets – Mallarmé, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin – and became the subject of early filmmakers.

Loïe Fuller

Loïe Fuller, a 1902 portrait by Frederick Glasier, from http://www.shorpy.com

Garelick’s book is strong on Fuller’s position as a figure of modernism and as a key figure in modern dance. It is, however, disappointingly weak on her early film appearances, reducing mention of these to a misleading footnote. There is much confusion over Fuller’s early film work, as she had many imitators – on stage and on film – and early films of skirt dancers are often mistakenly identified as her (see, for example, the site www.edisonfilm.com, which erroneously claims to show Fuller in a Edison film, though she never made a film for Edison).

For the record, these are the known films that were made of (or by) ‘La Loïe’:

Danse Serpentine (Lumière cat. no. 765, 1896) [extant]
La Loïe Fuller (Pathé, 1901) [extant]
Loïe Fuller (Pathé, 1905, coloured) [extant]
Le Lys de la vie (The Lily of Life) (1920) [extant]
Vision des rêves (1924)
Les Incertitudes de Coppelius (1927)

Le Lys de la vie

Le Lys de la vie (1921), from Bibliothèque nationale de France

Garelick has a little more to say about the later titles (only Le Lys de la vie survives among them). They were made by Fuller and her lover Gabrielle Bloch. The feature-length Le Lys de la vie sounds to be an extraordinary work – based on a story by Queen Marie of Romania, a combination of fairy tale and dance themes telling the story of two princesses competing for the love of a prince, played by René Clair, no less. Fuller herself directed but did not appear in the film, which seems to have been characterised by innovative cinematographic effects (such as incorporating negatives for some ghostly effects) mixed with conventional fairy tale elements.

Garelick tells us less about the other two, lost films. Apparently they were not completed, and were presumably semi-professional productions. It is likely that Fuller did not appear in them either (certainly not as a dancer – she was in her mid-60s, and died in 1928).

Loïe (not Loie as Garelick’s book has it throughout) Fuller was an iconic figure who continues to attract much scholarly interest. There’s a useful set of links about her on the Great Dance Weblog. As indicated above, films exists of her many imitators. She refused to be filmed by Edison, but the Edison studios did make films of other dancers in the 1890s, such as Ruth St Denis, Amy Muller and especially Annabelle, whose several Kinetoscope skirt dance films were clearly in imitation of Fuller and were often mistakenly (deliberately or otherwise) promoted as being films of Fuller herself.

Loie Fuller is a gorgeous-looking site which accompanies the book Traces of Light: Absence and Presence in the Work of Loïe Fuller, by modern Fuller imitator/acolyte Ann Cooper Albright.

Garelick’s book is a fine, insightful study with a strong theoretical basis, but as ever the facts about films are not just scanty but are not recognised as having any importance. The confusion that Fuller’s supposed film appearances created at the time persists, and she exists in those skirt films that survive more often as a guiding spirit than the woman herself.

Quellen zur Filmgeschichte und einiges anderes

I was delighted to find that Herbert Birett’s site Quellen zur Filmgeschichte und einiges anderes is still active. I lost track of it some years ago, when it seemed to have taken down, but it is alive and well under the more memorable web address www.kinematographie.de. Birett is an assiduous chronicler of German film history, whose speciality is filmographies based on censorship files and other forms of official records. His major work is the book Das Filmangebot in Deutschland, a listing of 17,000 films shown in Germany 1895-1911, which he sells for €70, but there is much of his site that he makes freely available.

There is a title list for all German films 1921-1930; Weimer Republic censorship records 1922-1932; a bibiliography of German film monographs to 1914; a listing of German movie journals to 1920s with notes as to their location in libraries; plus other resources for German sound films. It’s in German, but with some helpful short descriptions in English for each section. Birett’s work is exemplary, and the site is a key resource for the specialist.

Popping the question

Well, here’s a romantic little tale from the gossip columns involving Patricia Arquette (film actress) and Thomas Jane (I haven’t a clue), who proposed to her in the following manner as described in the Philadelphia Daily News:

Last week Thomas Jane told Tattle’s Baird Jones at the premiere party for “The Mist” at NYC’s Rosa Mexicano how he popped the question to wife Patricia Arquette.

“My marriage proposal was very simple,” he said. “I cut myself into a Charlie Chaplin film and rented out a silent movie theater in Los Angeles and invited my wife to be on a date to go see a silent film.

“… When we walked in, the theater was dark and you could not see that it was empty. Then I had the projectionist and the owner laughing and trying to make it sound like there were people there.

“About 20 minutes into it, I cut myself into the film with cards. Chaplin swallowed a whistle and in the movie there was a host of a party who gathered everyone around a piano to sing a song with cards. Then they cut to me with cards and each card said, ‘Will’ ‘You’ ‘Marry’ ‘Me’ ‘Patricia.’ I had dressed myself up like a waiter and Patricia (Arquette) was sitting there thinking to herself, ‘Who is this waiter?’

“… Finally it dawned on her what was going on. She shouted ‘Yes’ at the screen, over and over. Then we had the projectionist run it again just for fun. I kept a copy.”

The Chaplin film in question is City Lights, which features the whistle-swallowing gag which takes place during a party. So how did Mr Jane go about this? Did he really get a print of City Lights, then shoot extra scenes to correspond with those from the original film? Was it all digital trickery? How convincing was it? How much did it all cost? What might the Chaplin estate think?

Peter Kobel’s Silent Movies

Silent Movies

http://www.readexpress.com

It’s not published in the UK until 6 December, but just in case you were thinking about writing that letter to Santa, you might want to add Peter Kobel’s Silent Movies to the list. This is a deluxe history of the genre, grandolinquently subtitled ‘The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture’, and has been five years in the making. It accompanies a Library of Congress touring programme, and it gets a preface by Martin Scorsese (what doesn’t these days?) plus an introduction by Kevin Brownlow, which should be stamp enough of approval for anyone. I’ll post something here once I’ve actually got my hands on a copy, but meanwhile the book has been published in the USA already, and generated a lot of comment. Here are some related links:

The Library of Congress press release for the book.

An interview with Kobel (an arts and entertainment journalist) on readexpress.com.

Richard Schickel’s rather jaundiced review of the book for the Los Angeles Times.

Peter Kobel’s personal site.

From 1896 to 1926 – part 7

We return to the reminiscences of Edward G. Turner of the Walturdaw company, pioneer film distributors. Turner is now talking about their business situation in the 1900s, when they turned to production as well as distribution. As is usual with Turner, what gives him equal pleasure is the mechanical side of the business, here devices for preventing fire, and getting the better of the London County Council.

Prior to our moving to Dane Street, the three partners had not definite duties. We all put our hands to whatever was required of us during the day, and acted as operators at night. We were buyers and sellers of everything in the kinematograph Industry, new or secondhand.

There was one member, however, whose inclinations were photographically inclined, and so we took lease of Wembley Park and erected there something novel in the way of outdoor studios – a revolving platform, which allowed us to put up three sets of scenery at a time, when the wind allowed it, and each could be brought to the camera as required. Further, it was so constructed that we could always get the best of the light and sunshine.

[Ernest] Howard took charge of this department – his lieutenants being J.B. McDowell and E. Bloomfield – these latter were our cameramen.

Albert Bloomfield left Walturdaw in 1908, forming the British & Colonial Kinematograph Company, J.B. McDowell soon joining him. McDowell would go on to achieve lasting fame as a cameraman in the First World War, filming much of the documentary feature The Battle of the Somme (1916). Interestingly, one of the companies he worked for before Walturdaw was the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, which had a revolving open-air studio (on the Thames embankment) much as Turner describes, dating around 1899.

[J.D.] Walker took over the Film Hire Department, [G.H.J.] Dawson the Entertainment Department, and myself the Sales and Accessory Department. The business thus became sectionalised, each man devoting himself exclusively to his own side of the business, whereas in the past we had been cosmopolitan in this respect. Things grew apace, and we were doing business with all parts of the world.

A Fireproof Spool

One day at Dane Street, the late Mr. Holmes, of Essex Road, who was the chief kinematograph mechanic to Levy Jones, of Horton Square, called to see me, and found me experimenting with a tin box. Instantly he said to me, ‘I see what you are after, I am working on the same thing; suppose we join forces?’

While we were discussing the point, my eye fell on a kinematograph camera film box (in those days the boxes were outside the camera). At once we had solved the problem. Why not make a copy of the camera film box in metal, fit it to the top of the kinema machine, make a similar box for the bottom spool-arm and so get fire-proof spool boxes?

The first pair were made of mahogany, and Mr. Holmes used them pretty regularly. They answered their purpose perfectly. We then had them made in metal and thus came about one of the greatest improvements in the kinema world.

A Lost Fortune

I took the model to Mr. Wrench and asked his advice as to taking out a patent, as I had done previously with the fireproof gate. I shall remember his words as long as I live:

He told me he had taken out over 100 patents on his lanterns, and never made any money out of any of them; other makers copied, and rarely was he able to stop them, except at great expense. Further, non-flam film was bound to be perfected in a month or two (it was always to be a month or two as it is to-day), and when non-flam film did come out, that would solve all our difficulties with the L.C.C., insurance companies and other authorities.

Alas! I took his advice and lost a fortune. The owner of those patents would be rolling in untold wealth to-day, as spool-boxes are compulsory all over the world.

Films, of course, were of cellulose nitrate, and were highly inflammable. ‘Non-flam’, or safety films (cellulose acetate) were often talked about, but in general they lacked the robustness of nitrate. Some safety systems were available around 1908, but cellulose acetate really only found use for narrow gauge systems designed for non-theatrical and amateur use, of which Edison’s 22mm Home Kinetoscope system, introduced in 1912, was the first.

The L.C.C. Butts In

No more was heard of fireproof spool-boxes until the demonstration which was given at the London Hippodrome, on December 17, 1908, when no fewer than ten firms exhibited, before the representatives of the London County Council and insurance bodies, their machines, showing how they had tackled the question of making the machines safe.

Incidentally, I claim to have had a good deal to do with this demonstration. It came about in this way. Passing the Hippodrome about a fortnight previously, I found that a demonstration of fire extinguishing apparatus for kinematographs was being given inside the Hippodrome. I walked in to see what was moving, and discovered that the apparatus was similar to an ordinary water cistern, such as are used in w.c.’s, fitted on four rods and suspended over the machine; this was the ingenious arrangement that the trade had been called together to see.

The apparatus was so arranged that if a piece of film caught fire it released a spring and the water supposed to come down and put the fire out. I, with a number of other exhibitors, saw this absurd apparatus, and laughed it to scorn, but certain members of the County Council were strongly in favour of foisting this wretched thing upon the trade.

The Test that Failed

Mr. Brandon (one of the oldest exhibitors) and myself, stepped into the ring and challenged the efficacy of this absurd invention, and I, as spokesman, asked that a fair test might be given, first to the apparatus which the various makers were selling, and secondly, that the County Council would call us together to demonstrate. The test was to be under the same conditions that we would have if we were actually showing, and this challenge was accepted.

Frank Allen kindly granted us the use of his ring, and on December 7 the demonstration was given, and proved the death knell of the water cistern, for when the film was set fire to by means of the rays from the arc lamp, the wretched invention failed, the water instead of coming down all over the spool and putting the fire out, simply fell over the bottom spool and damaged the film – and let the rest flare away.

All the other machines were tested very severely by the judges, and each came out triumphant. Some of the tests were really severe, inasmuch as they fired the film on the top sprocket, the bottom sprocket, and in the gate, and yet in no instance did the fire enter into the spool cases.

Stay turned for the next episode, when Turner tells us about ‘Flicker Alley’ and discusses the rise of the exclusive.

Theses and dissertations

A few days ago I posted something on Donald Young’s Motion Pictures: A Study in Social Legislation, a 1922 doctoral thesis available from the Internet Archive. I said that it had to be one of very first doctoral theses to be awarded on the subject of film. But was it the first?

Well, The Bioscope is loathe to leave such questions lie unanswered, and it so happens that I knew where to find the answer. In 1979, Raymond Fielding, author of standard books on American newsreels and The March of Time, produced A Bibliography of Theses and Dissertations on the Subject of Film: 1916-1979, published as University Film Association Monograph no. 3. This is a fascinating piece of work. It lists every traceable graduate dissertation and thesis on film from American universities, up to 1979. It lists 1,420 of them. However, it is not until the 1960s that we really start to get academic studies of films and filmmakers as we might expect now. Before then, subjects such as the educational film, sociological studies, and the economic aspects of film are common. Film as a means to learn about other subjects predominates for the early decades.

So, was Donald Young first? No – his was the second doctoral thesis to be awarded, and both of those were preceded by a masters dissertation by one Ray L. Short in 1916, awarded by the University of Iowa. Whatever happened to him? (see comments) Anyway, here are the twelve dissertations and theses that were awarded up to 1930:

  • Ray L. Short, ‘A social study of the motion picture.’ M.A., University of Iowa, 1916
  • Perry Roberts, ‘The social aspect of the motion picture.’ Ph.D, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1920
  • William Breidenbach, ‘Design of a moving picture theater.’ M.A., Ohio State University, 1922
  • Donald Young, ‘Motion pictures: A study in social legislation.’ Ph.D, University of Pennsylvania, 1922
  • Harold Morgan, ‘Wish-fulfillment in drama and motion pictures.’ M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1925
  • H.F. Cummings, ‘Motion pictures in education.’ M.S., Boston University, 1929
  • Margaret Akin, ‘Social valuations of two hundred [and?] three motion pictures.’ M.A., University of Washington, 1930
  • Ralph Cassady, ‘Historical analysis of competitive practices in motion picture production, distribution, and exhibition.’ Ph.D, University of Califonia, Berkeley, 1930
  • Henry Hawley, ‘Distribution as a factor in commercial integration in the motion picture industry.’ D.C.S., Harvard University, 1930
  • Perry Holaday, ‘The effect of motion pictures on the intellectual content of children.’ Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1930
  • E.M. Porter, ‘The curve of retention in moving pictures for young children.’ M.A., Universiy of Iowa, 1930
  • Victor Rapport, ‘The motion picture: A study in commercialized recreation.’ Ph.D, Yale University, 1930

There’s a Ph.D to be undertaken reinvestigating all those. Fielding doesn’t provide a chronological index to his bibliography, but from his index to themes we learn that the first dissertation on Chaplin was in 1949 (the next wasn’t until 1974). The first on D.W. Griffith was in 1961. Buster Keaton was first so recognised in 1970.

But what about British universities, or elsewhere? What was the first British film Ph.D? This time round, I don’t know. Does anyone? (OK, the answer might be found on Index to Theses, but I don’t have a subscription).

Update: Stephen Bottomore has passed on the following information about theses and dissertations that were produced elsewhere, and an American dissertation that precedes that of Ray L. Short. The information is in the comments, but I’m reproducing it here as well:

Some time ago I started updating Fielding’s list for these theses re/from the early era, and found there was even one before Short’s:

Joseph Richard Fulk, “The Motion Picture Show with Special Reference to Its Effects on Morals and Education,” M.A., Univ. of Nebraska, 1912.

In the same year was the first (?) French one: Jean Marchais, “Du Cinématographe Dans ses Rapports Avec le Droit d’Auteur,” Doctorat, Faculté de Droit, Université de Paris, 1912.

Germany’s first (?) came in 1913. I haven’t researched the UK so much, but the first I’ve found is Frances Consitt, “The Use of Films in the Teaching of History,” Leeds, 1931.

Thanks as always, Stephen. I have a copy of Frances Consitt’s work, which was research conducted on behalf of the Historical Association, and which was published formally in 1931. More on what is a fascinating work at another time, perhaps.

Another update: Frank Kessler has just reminded me that the first German doctoral thesis was Emilie Altenloh’s Zur Soziologie des Kino: Die Kino-Unternehmung und die Sozialen Schichten Ihrer Besucher, awarded by the University of Heidelberg in 1913, and published in book form in 1914. This is an exceptional piece of work, a sociological study strikingly modern in method and conclusions. It is based around a questionnaire and interview survey of some 2,400 filmgoers in the medium-sized industrial town of Mannheim during 1912 and 1913. It is in two parts: part one on production; part two on audiences and reception. The latter is available in an English translation by Kathleen Cross, as ‘A Sociology of the Cinema: the Audience’, Screen, vol. 42 no. 3, Autumn 2001, pp. 249-293. It’s a work I should return to at another time. Meanwhile, for those able to read German, the full text is available from the University of Oldenburg site.

And another update: How could I have forgotten? There was a doctoral thesis submitted by George Esdras Bevans, How workingmen spend their time, submitted to Columbia University in 1913, which has already been the subject of a post. Although not directly about the cinema, it does include data about cinema-going in its survey of American working class entertainments.

And a final update: There is one doctoral thesis that beats all the above. The French medical researcher, Jean Comandon, as part of his work on microscopic organisms, such as the syphillis spirochete, employed microcinematography (combining cinematograph with microscope), observations from which which were included in his 1909 thesis De l’usage clinique de l’ultra-microscope en particulier pour la recherche et l’étude des spirochètes. In the same year he was taken on by the Pathé company to make microcinematographical films of organisms for the popular cinema market, and he went on to enjoy a notable career as a scientific filmmaker (including a period in the late 1920s working for Albert Kahn).