Kinema online

Advertisement for the Gaumont serial Les Vampires, from an edition of Kinema in 1916

Could it be that there is starting to be a bit of international competition in the digitising early film journals stakes? It would be wonderful if this were so, and maybe the appearance of the journals around the world that we are trying to document is in part encouraging other such initatives. Already we have excellent representation for Italy, France, the USA and Brazil, with isolated examples for countries such as Austria, Germany, Sweden and the UK. Now we can add Switzerland to their number.

The Institute of Cinema Studies at the University of Zurich has recently completed a project to digitise 324 issues of the Swiss film trade journal Kinema, dating 1913-1919 (with some gaps). The journal was Switzerland’s first film journal, founded in 1911 (the first two years have not been digitised as yet as many issues from this period are missing), written in German though with some articles in French. It covers the small amount of native film production that took place in Switzerland this time, but also covers films from many other countries which were exhibited in Swiss cinemas. So, for anyone with an interesting in early cinema this is an important new resource.

Using the Kinema website is easy. Click on the ‘Blättern’ link and you will be taken to the relevant section of the online project, of which this digitisation forms but a part. Instructions are in English. You can search across the entire digitised set, of else selected a volume or year, then narrow this down to issue level, which takes you to individual pages which you can browse through or see in enlarger form with a zoom viewer. Complete issues can be downloaded as PDFs (rather large – a typical issue comes to over 100MB, but they are word-capturable, so it is possible for non-German or French reader to copy and paste text into Google Translate to get at least an approximate sense of what is being said). It is possible to download individual pages as PDFS as well.

Advertisement for Burlingham Films, from Kinema in 1917

You can also search for a word within a single issue. Searching on various terms brought up 168 hits for ‘Chaplin’, 371 for ‘cinematograph’, 12 for ‘Vitagraph’, 30 for ‘burlingham’ (Frederick Burlingham was a mountaineering filmmaker who made a number of films in Switzerland), 7 for ‘bioscope’ and 3 for ‘Kinemacolor’ (the searches appear to be across the entire database – I haven’t worked out how to search within the one journal title, as opposed to browsing through it). The journal is heavy on the Gothic text for the earlier issues, but later isues have more illustrations, particularly among the many advertisements.

This looks like a model digitisation. I am grateful to Dr. Wolfgang Fuhrmann of the University of Zurich for bringing the site to my attention. He invites anyone interested to get in touch with him at wolfgang.fuhrmann [at] or else Adrian Gerber, who was the supervisior of this particular project, adrian.gerber [at] They are particularly keen to hear from collectors who may be able to contribute otherwise lost copies, so that they can make the digitised run complete. They note in particular the contribution to the project of the great German early film filmographer Herbert Birett, who has helped identify some elusive copies. These are the missing issues:

1911 / all Issues
1912 / all Issues
1913 / 1-9
1914 / 15 (Issue was probably not published)
1915 / 35, p. 6f.
1915 / 38
1916 / 2
1917 / 36, cover c?
1917 / 42, cover b, c, d
1917 / 51, cover b, S. 1
1918 / 21 (Issue was probably not published)

There is much to discover here, illuminating not only the exporting of films from other countries into Switzerland, but increasing awareness of the importance of a country whose early film history (production, distriubtion and exhibition) remains too litle known by most film scholars. Having Kinema online must change things. Go explore.

750,000 and rising

It is the special privilege of all bloggers to bore / regale / fascinate (delete as appropriate) their readers with statistics. Every blog comes with a content management system that reports the daily, weekly and monthly figures, encouraging to write ever more so that you may attain the next milestone in pursuit of a truly satisfactory popularity. The urge to report such figures to your readership is a great one, though one doubts that the readers care much at all.

Here at New Bioscope Towers we are not entirely immune to such temptations, but as the viewing figures climb steadily if unspectacularly upwards, we are less distracted by them than used to be the case (oh that happy day when we first hit 10,000 views). Nevertheless, three-quarters-of-a-million visits since 2007 feels like a modest achievement, and that’s where we are. Feel free to celebrate in whatever way you find fitting.

For myself, I shall celebrate by presenting the trailer for The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius’ modern silent feature film which was such a great hit at Cannes and is about to go on general release (in October, it seems). It looks to be just the sort of fun that the best silent films can be – and a film for everyone. The Bioscope salutes it, and all those who revere a medium which clearly has much more life in it yet.

When silents were silent

D.W. Griffith’s Those Awful Hats (1909) depicts a conventional film show with piano accompaniment. Most film shows at this time were like this – but not all. Image from

I read it again the other day. Someone explained how silent films were accompanied by music by starting with the phrase, “Of course, silent films were never silent …” We’ve all used those words, or something like them, explaning the basics of silent film to those new to or indifferent towards the medium. It’s corny, but it’s useful. Kevin Brownlow has a chapter in The Parade’s Gone By entitled ‘The Silents Were Never Silent’. But is it true? Well, if you are going to be historically exact about such things, then the answer is no. Some of time, if not very often, silent films were silent. At the risk of sowing seeds of confusion, we shall attempt to explain when, where and why.

Films from the so-called silent era were ‘silent’ because for the most part there was no soundtrack included on the film print. Although Eugene Lauste patented a sound-on-film system as early as 1907, the first films with soundtracks did not appear, in a few experimental shorts, until the early 1920s. Sound-on-film as we know it was effectively devised by the American Lee De Forest, whose De Forest Phonofilms (short films chiefly showing dramatic or musical sketches) were shown in some cinemas from the mid-1920s. Also during the silent period there had been numerous efforts at synchronising films with disc recordings, chiefly for songs. The concept first became prominent in 1900, and enjoyed much success around the 1907-1910 period, to the extent that it became common for many film programmes to include one song title using synchronised recordings. The concept was revived and improved by Warner Bros for The Jazz Singer (1927), which introduced the idea of sound film (specifically sound feature films) to a mass audience, though it was sound-on-film that would soon take over and give us the talkies.

But for the most part a silent film was silent unless accompanied by live music. But was the music always there? When films were first exhibited commercially, in 1894, via the Edison Kinetoscope peepshow, they were silent. You peered down into the machine, paid your cent or penny, and thirty seconds of so of silent miniaturised action played before your eyes. Edison wasn’t happy with this, and in 1895 introduced the Kinetophone, an adaptation of the Kinetoscope with accompanying (though not synchronised) phonograph recordings. Yet for the most part people started seeing silent films silently.

This continued with the first Lumière presentations around the world in 1895/96, which generally took place without music in salons before select audiences, introducing the concept, before the films would then be transferred to variety theatres where they could be commercialised. Here they would be accompanied by music, since every variety theatre came with a house band or orchestra. Films needed music to be commercially palatable, and because the musicians were on hand. So the idea of films needing music to bring them fully to life was established very soon.

Then films grew longer, and more dramatic, and more popular, and started to demand dedicated auditoria. Film shows in American nickelodeons or British electric theatres (we’re talking about the mid-1900s here) were 45 minutes to an hour long, with several films on the programme. It was a long time for an audience to sit in silence, or so it might seem to us, and many have assumed that because later practice was to have music accompaniment for even the humblest item in the film programme, then it was naturally so during the earlier, nickelodeon period.

Rick Altman, in Silent Film Sound (2004), startlingly overturned this assumption. He argues that music was commonplace in nickelodeon shows (i.e. around 1905-09) but that it was performed between the films, and often only then. He cites evidence from film journals, guides to managing film shows and memoirs to show that if a pianist was used at a film show, it might simply be to accompany a singer performing to illustrated song slides – and if you had a synchronised film to provide the song (usually with the audience joining in too) then there was no need for the expense of the musician. Music was also handy for keeping the audience amused during the change of reels, but there was no necessity for music to be played throughout. Even when musical accompnaiment started to be introduced, it wasn’t necessarily ubiquitous, with Altman citing evidence for film shows where the dramatic films were show with music, while the comedies played silently.

How widespread was this practice? Altman isn’t able to say, though there is enough incidental evidence to suggest that it was common enough not to require any kind of comment at the time as being anything out of the ordinary. Not was it restricted to America. In his pioneering articles for Film History on film exhibition in London 1906-1914, Jon Burrows shows that there were some London cinemas in the pre-1910 period which showed films without any musical accompaniment, though here the circumstances were slightly different. In the period before the Cinematograph Act was introduced, the London Country Council licensed entertainments as music, drama or music an drama. A simple way of dodging the censorious eye of the L.C.C. was not to have any music (or dancing) at all.

My own researches in this field have uncovered some indirect evidence for the practice, but no direct evidence. For example, in December 1910 The World’s Fair (a journal for fairground showmen which had a lot of interest in the emerging cinema business) gave these sample weekly costs for an independent showmen running a film programme:

Film service (two changes weekly) £12 0s
Singing pictures (with hire of synchroniser) £2 10s
Rental £3 5s
Rates £0 12s
Electricity £5 0s
Staffing £12 0s
Printing £2 0s
Billposting £1 0s
Advertising £1 10s
Sundry costs £4 0s
Total £43 17s

So, money for a synchronised sound picture, but no money for a musician. That doesn’t mean that a musician might not have been an extra cost just not accounted for here, but compare such an assessment of the needs of the exhibitor with the list of requirements from c.1912 given in our series How to Run a Picture Theatre, where it is assumed that a film show will have a musician providing accompaniment throughout.

However, I have done a fair amount of research into memoir evidence of cinema-going at this period, and I have not come across a single person recalling going to a film show where the films were shown silently. But memoirists (like film historians) can easily confuse later practice with earlier experiences of film-going, and imagine that what they became used had always been so. Moreover, one only has to think of how cheaply some of the first London shop shows or American nickelodeon shows were run, and how long they screened films for (from morning til might) to realise that have a musician playing all day was a luxury that not all could afford.

There is other evidence of the occasional nature of musical accompaniment in London film shows 1907-09. Police reports on film shows in the East End in 1909 reveal that one show had a mechanical piano that played throughout, irrespective of what was going on the screen; another had a piano with a sign saying that anyone in the audience was invited to play if they were able to; another gave no indication of any music being played at all. Other kinds of film show did without music – for example, the immensely popular Hale’s Tours of the mid-1900s (films shot from the front of moving trains projected in a carriage-like space to create the sensation of travelling) had no music, only the sound of the machinery and a ‘ticket collector’ telling the audience what views were on show. And many a special lecturer with films designed to illustrate a place visited or a cause requiring support got by without music (which would have drowned out what they wanted to say in any case).

Up to 1910, audiences at film shows expected music, but not necessarily music to accompany films. How widespread this practice was we do not know, but it was common enough among some of the humbler shows (which were greatly in the majority) to pass without comment. That it was not entirely desirable, however, is demonstrated by the fact that the practice rapidly died out after 1909. Film shows moved out of converted shops into larger, more luxurious auditoria, and audiences could no longer be expected to endure mean entertainment on hard benches, without raking, and in silence.

The preview theatre at Urbanora House, London, 1908. No music is being played

However, silent films did not stop being silent on occasion thereafter. Previews of films, for prospective buyers and later for critics, were generally conducted without music. Audiences had come to expect film and music to be indivisible, but the industry saw the two as separate. There might be the occasional time when a weary pianist would set down their hands for a while and no doubt get jeered by the audience while the film played on in silence, but that just confirms the expectation that audiences now had, in the 1910 and 20s. Silence could only be accidental – or just once on a while something done for dramatic effect. The best-known example of the latter was the British film Reveille (1924), a First World War drama which reaches it climax with the two-minute silence, which was presented without musical accompaniment, as the director George Pearson recalled:

Emotional music had illuminated the film throughout, led by that master of his crafty, Louis Levy. At the vital instant, his baton stopped. Melody ceased with lightning suddenness … dead silence in that great packed auditorium … the screen telling only of things that spoke to the heart alone. An old quavering mother at a little open window, old eyes seeking the heavens, worn hands against her aged breast … silence … and then a faint breeze stirring the thin muslin curtain, wafting it gently to touch her cheek … to kiss it … and wipe away a tear … and falls as silently as it had lifted … and still, the silence … exactly two minues … an audience seemingly spellbound. Then Louis Levy’s baton lifted … struck … and the Reveille broke the magic of silence …

It is an extraordinarily powerful piece of filmmaking and – so far as I know – the only part of the film that survives today.

Silent films are sometimes silent, even today. Anyone who has been to a screening of a silent film at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris will have been obliged to experience the film in silence, as they have a firm rule based on the belief that any musical acompnaiment to a silent that we might come up with now would be a distracting pastiche, and it is better to be without the music at all, so that the film may be experienced in its purity. Anyone who has sat through a silent feature film in silence will be aware that such purity is difficult to achieve, and the rumbling stomach of our neighbour is more of a distraction than musical pastiche might have been. In the earlier years of the Pordenone silent film festival, when they had fewer musicians (and sometimes just the one), then you had to expect periods of silence when the pianist took a well-earned rest and we the audience sat through the rest of the film in silence, conjuring up tunes in our heads as best we could. And in the mid-1990s, at the National Film Theatre, I presented several programmes of Victorian cinema (i.e. pre-1901) without musical accompaniment at all, just me talking over the films. A mixed blessing for the audience, possibly.

So, silents were sometimes silent, and sometimes they are silent still. But (doctrinaire spirits at the Cinémathèque Française notwithstanding) we are all the better for the silents not really being what they are until they are silent no more.

Importing Asta

Asta Nilesen, from

Over 27 to 29 September 2011 the Deutsches Filminstitut, Frankfurt, and Media Studies, University of Trier are organising an international conference dedicated to arguably the leading European film star of the early cinema period, Importing Asta Nielsen: Cinema-Going and the Making of the Star System in the Early 1910s. The conference is curated by leading German early film scholar Martin Loiperdinger, and here’s the descriptive blurb:

Asta Nielsen has been the first renowned female star of world cinema. Her name is inextricably connected with the advent of the long feature film and the introduction of the star system. Her films played a crucial role in the transition from short films to the long feature film as the main attraction of the programme which took place in various countries, in the years before the First World War.

Asta Nielsen’s international film career started in Germany with the ‘invention’ of the Monopolfilm, the monopoly rental system, in late 1910. Her films were distributed within this exclusive system and received tremendous box-office records. The screen personality of the Danish actress appealed to audiences of all sorts. Branded as ‘the Eleonora Duse of Film Art’ she uncontestedly was the most popular film actress with German film audiences in 1913.

But was this also the case with the many countries which imported Asta Nielsen films before the First World War?

How was the distribution of her films organized in those countries?

Did the Danish actress indeed attract audiences in those countries as she was able to do in Germany? And did her films also play a crucial role in establishing the long feature film format as they did in Germany?

What about the reception of her films in so many countries with different cultures and customs? How did censorship react to the provoking characters which Asta Nielsen played on screen? How did trade periodicals and daily newspapers respond to her screen personality?

And, last but not least, in which ways was Asta Nielsen on screen appropriated and received by the varied audiences of so many countries, varying not only in gender and class, but also in education, religion, and life style? Is it possible to map different patterns of audience response to Asta Nielsen films in different countries?

The conference will discuss various modes of distribution, exhibition, appropriation, and reception of Asta Nielsen within countries of all continents.

The conference takes place in Frankfurt (at the Deutsche Filminstitut Filmmuseum), and is scheduled to take place just before the Pordenone silent film festival (which starts 1 October). The conference organisers point out that participants will be able to travel easily from Frankfurt airport to Venice Marco Polo airport, or by Ryanair from Hahn airport (1 hour bus ride from Frankfurt) to Treviso airport (30 minute train ride to Pordenone). The conference fee will be 30 Euro for three days, 15 Euros for one day; the fee for students will be 15 Euro and 7.50 Euro respectively, which all sounds very reasonable indeed. Participants are requested to register up to 15 September 2011 via email at

And here’s the conference programme:

27 September

09:00 – 10:00 Registration

10:00 – 10:15 Opening of the Conference

10:15 – 12:30
Panel 1: Asta Nielsen and the Emergence of the Star System in Germany

Martin Loiperdinger (Trier):
The German Model – Asta Nielsen Monopolfilm Series

Andrea Haller (Frankfurt):
Asta Nielsen, the Introduction of the Long Feature Film and Female Audiences – the Case of Mannheim

Pierre Stotzky (Metz):
The Exhibition of Asta Nielsen Films in Metz

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 15:30
Panel 2: Asta Nielsen in Austria-Hungary and Poland

Patric Blaser (Vienna):
Asta Nielsen in Austria-Hungary

Jakub Klíma (Brno):
Asta Nielsen in Brno

Andrzej Debski (Wrocław):
Asta Nielsen in Poland

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:30
Panel 3: Asta Nielsen in Small Countries – Northern Europe

Anne Bachmann (Stockholm):
Public Response to Asta Nielsen’s Clash with the Censorship Board in Sweden

Outi Hupaniittu (Turku):
“Three times at the censorial office and nothing to remark, for you with a special price” – Afgrunden’s lucky escape and the new ways of promotion in Finland

Gunnar Iversen (Trondheim):
Asta Nielsen in Norway

18:00 Dinner

20:30 – 22:30
Cinema Lecture
Karola Gramann, Heide Schlüpmann, (Frankfurt):
Asta Nielsen – A Cinematic Phenomenon (followed by film screenings)

28 September

09:00 – 10:30
Panel 4. The First Filmstar – Asta Nielsen in Italy and Russia

Giovanni Lasi (Bologna):
Italy’s First Film Star – Asta Nielsen, ‘Polaris’

Lauri Piispa (Turku):
Marketing Russia’s First Film Star – Asta Nielsen in the Russian Trade Press

10:30 – 11: 00 Coffee Break

11:00 – 13:00
Panel 5: Asta Nielsen in Great Britain and the US

Jon Burrows (Coventry):
‘”The Great Asta Nielsen”, “The Shady Exclusive” and the birth of film censorship in Britain, 1911-1914’

Richard Abel (Ann Arbor):
The Flickering Career of Asta Nielsen in the US, 1912–1913

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 16:00
Panel 6: The Emergence of the Long Feature Film in Denmark

Caspar Tybjerg (Copenhagen):
Hjamlar Davidson, His Kosmorama Cinema, and Afgrunden

Isak Thorsen (Copenhagen):
The Mülleneisen Case: Asta Nielsen and Nordisk Films Compagni

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee Break

16:30 – 17:00
Panel 7: Film Stars and Marketing Policies in the Early 1910s

Caroline Henkes (Trier):
Asta Nielsen and Her Poor Female Characters of 1911

Ian Christie (London):
From Screen Personalities to Divas – Early Film Stars in Europe

19:00 Dinner

29 September

09:00 – 11:00
Panel 8: Strange Encounters – Asta Nielsen in Arabia and the Far East

Ouissal Mejri (Bologne):
Asta Nielsen in Egypt and Tunisia

Sawako Ogawa / Hiroshi Komatsu (Tokyo):
Asta Nielsen in Japan

Stephen Bottomore (Bangkok): Asta Nielsen in Australasia

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee Break

11:30 – 13:30
Panel 9: Asta Nielsen in Small Countries – Western and Central Europe

Ansje van Beusekom (Utrecht):
Distributing, programming and recycling Asta Nielsen films in the Netherlands

Paul Lesch (Luxembourg):
“Earning the audience’s unbridled applause” – Asta Nielsen in Luxembourg

Mattia Lento (Zurich) / Pierre-Emmanuel Jaques (Lausanne):
Asta Nielsen in Switzerland

13:30 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 16:00
Panel 10: Digital Tools for Comparative Research in the Emergence of the Star System

Karel Dibbets (Amsterdam):
The Cinema in Context Database

Joseph Garncarz (Cologne):
The Siegen Database

N.N. (Brno):
The Local Cinema History Database on Brno

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee Break

16:30 – 17.30
Comments and Closing Discussion

Truly a gathering of notable scholars from around the world in celebration of a world star. It looks like an excellent event all round, and fingers crossed that a publication comes out of it as well.

More information should eventually be available from this link:, but until it’s ready try this one (in English) or this one (in German) instead.

The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal

Pages from The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal for February 1905, including interview with A.C. Bromhead

Regular readers will be aware of the praise we have heaped upon the Media History Digital Library, the initiative of David Pierce to provide access to digitised film trade journals for free to all via the Internet Archive. You may know that we are listing all of the titles made available through this source and others in the Journals section of the Bioscope, arranged by country. We now want to draw your attention to just one such journal, because its (currently) unique nature raises a vital issue. Pierce has recently digitised a volume of The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal, covering November 1904 to October 1905. This is an exciting development because it is the first British film trade journal to be made available in digitised form on the Web. But why has British silent cinema studies fared so badly, when there are now extensive film journals from America, France, Italy and others now available online?

Founded as The Optical Magic Lantern Journal in 1889, the journal changed its name to The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal in 1904 in response to a changing industry, as many lantern operators and photographers moved across to the new medium. The publisher was E.T. Heron, the editor Theodore Brown. Published monthly, the journal included notices of new films, news, issues of the day, information on new patents, interviews (Charles Urban, James White, A.C. Bromhead), advice columns, correspondence, and information on magic lantern practice as well, providing a fascinating picture of an industry in transition.

The volume on the Internet Archive covers October 1904 to November 1905 though it’s not easy to calculate when individual pieces were published as the relevant months are not given (or not easily identifiale). It’s all word-searchable and compellingly browsable. To whet your appetite, below is the idiosyncratic index to the volume, included at the start of the digitised text:

Animatography, The Science of … 61, 79, 99, 133. 160, 237
Announcements with the Lantern … 277
Apparatus for Science Teaching … 64
Applications for Patents … 23
Architecture and Slide Making … 225
Assassination of the “Grand Duke” Cinematographed … 127
Carbon Frocess for Lantern Slides … 55
Caricaturist and the Cinematograph, The … 106
Catalogues and Books Received … 23, 93,119, 140, 168, 171, 203, 232, 282
Chats with Trade Leaders … 13, 37, 85
Cinematography in Colours … 36
Cinematograph Work, Hints on … 11, 29
Cloud Effects in Lantern Slides … 201
Colouring Lantern Slides with Aniline Dyes … 147
Contact and Reduction … 199
Correspondence … 52, 82, 104, 134, 148, 175, 21S, 258
Editor’s Pen, From the … 1, 25, 49, 73, 97, 121, 145, 169, 191, 213, 259
Extremes of Temperature … 60
Eyes and How to Use Them … 129, 149, 179
Fires from Moving Pictures … 251
Flickerless Projection from Motion Pictures … 195
Four Hundred Arc Lamps used for Cinematograph Work … 5
Fourth Photographic Exhibition … 100
Freedom … 159
Full or Empty Houses — A Lesson in Advertising … 262
Getting Good Lantern Slides from Weak Negatives … 223
Hint for Over-Exposed Slides, A … 123, 231
Home-made Lantern Plates … 208
How to Obviate the Acquirement of Cover Glasses at a Penny Each … 54
How to Colour Lantern Slides … 136
How to Deliver a Lantern Lecture … 67
How to Make Neat and Effective Title Slides … 235
Illuminants for Optical Lanterns … 3
Illustrated Interviews … 239, 271
“Impressionist” in Photography, The … 117
Inch of Negative, An … 27
Journal of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia, The … 242
Kinematograph for the Blind … 127
Lanternist, Notes for the Non-Photographic … 81
Lantern, Announcements with the … 277
Lantern, To Make Money with the… 101
Lantern Lectures on British Industries … 161
Lantern Lecture, How to Deliver … 67
Lantern Lecture, Three Requisites for a Successful … 156
Lantern Plates, Home-made … 2g8
Lantern Plates, On the Development of … 105
Lantern Slide Hint, A … 277
Lantern Slides at the Northern Photographic Exhibition, 1905, Leeds … 215
Lantern Slides, Carbon Process for … 55
Lantern Slides, Cloud Effects in … 201
Lantern Slides, How to Colour … 136
Lantern Slides, On Photographing with a View to the Production of … 33
Lantern Slides, Reducing and Intensifying … 190
Lantern Work, Notes on … 58
Light and Shade … 24
Living Lamp, A … 158
Marvels of Science … 211
Method for Putting Printed Matter on Finished Lantern Slides … 205
Microscope and its Use, The … 245
Moving Pictures, Fires from … 251
Moving Pictures, Flickerless Projection from … 195
Negative Making for Lantern Slides … 135
Negative, An Inch of … 27
New Films … 20, 30, 51, 83, 1 15, 141, 164, 189, 204, 222, 242, 269
New Form of Music Hall Matinee … 59
New Screen Elevator, A … 257
Non-inflammable Celluloid … 80
Note for Slide Makers … 28
Notes on Slide Making, Some … 7
Notes for the Non-Photographic Lanternist … 81
Notices … 12, 43. 71, 84, 114, 158, 190, 193, 215, 23S, 259
Notes … 232
Oil Lanterns in Use … 111
On the Development of Lantern Plates … 105
On Photographing with a View to the Production of Lantern Slides … 33
Only Coloured Film in England, The … 25
Optical Illusions … 41, 75, 10S, 137, 153, 184, 219, 253
Optical Lantern, Revival of … 183
Optical Lanterns, Illuminants for … 3
Our Suggestion Bureau … 21
Over-Exposed Slides, A Hint for … 123, 231
Patents … 4S, 96, 163, 1S7, 210, 217, 244, 274
Patents, Applications for … 23
Photography of Microscopic Objects, The … 9
Photography as a Method of Pictorial Expression … 65
Photographic Society of Philadelphia, The Journal of the … 242
Pictorial Treatment of Subjects, The … 65
Pictures and Politics in the West … 98
Planet Mars in the Kinematograph, The … 242
Praise, A Word of … 12, 16, 44, 60, 90, 140, 152, 194, 232, 235
Recent Encouraging Expressions … 140
Reducing and Intensifying Lantern Slides … 190
Review of Apparatus … 17, 45, 72, 94, 118, 178
Revival of the Optical Lantern, The … 183
Round and About … 236
Round the Trade … 2S0
Science of Animatography, The … 61, 79, 99, 133, 160, 237
Science Teaching, Apparatus for … 64
Screens and their Erection … 124
Slide Making, Notes on … 7
Slide Makers, Note for … 28
Slides of the Month … 2S2
Slides, How to Make Neat and Effective Title … 235
Stereoscopic Notes … 6, 32, 66, 78, 101, 128, 162, 176, 206, 229, 256, 276
Stereoscopic Photograph, A … 117
Stereoscopic Vision … 173
Sun and Magnetic Storms, The … 89
St. Louis Exhibition, Unique Pictures at the … 36
Temperance and the Lantern … 106
Temperance, Extremes of … 60
Three Requisites for a Successful Lantern Lecture … 156
Tit Bits … 22, 40, 69, 91, 102, 142, 107, 172
To Make Money with the Lantern … 101
Trade Organisation Needed Among Operators, Is … 224, 265
Unique Pictures at the St. Louis Exhibition … 36
We Have Others … 252
Weak Negatives, Getting Good Lantern Slides from … 223
What our Contemporaries Say … 73
What is Legitimate Trading — Some Curses and their Cure … 275
Winter Work … 53
Wonderful Bioscope, A … 111
Word of Praise, A … 12

Though this is a highly welcome offering, it does highlight the sad fact that it is currently the only historical British film journal available online. Two theatre-based journals with plenty of information on silent films, The Era (up to 1900 only) and The Stage, are available online, though both require a subscription. A project from a few years ago by the University of East Anglia to tackle The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly (the journal which succeeded The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal in 1907) was a disappointing flop, with no digitised pages, only a very incomplete index for the 1890s, early 1915, 1943-mid-1954 and 1955-1971. And that’s it.

Cartoon from The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal (p. 261) by journal editor Theodore Brown at the time of a crisis in the industry when Pathé introduced film on the British market at a price of five pence per foot, at a time when the standard rate was six pence. Brown’s cartoon shows Robert Paul asking the question “What’s your proposition, Charlie?” to a cigar-smoking Charles Urban. Others depicted include Cecil Hepworth (far right) and A.C. Bromhead (centre), while Brown himself is the figure with a moustache in the background

There were three main film trade journals in Britain for the silent era: The Bioscope, The Cinema and The Kinematograph Weekly, while Picturegoer was the main fan jounal. There were many other journals of abiding interest- the British Library provides a listing of the British and Irish film journals that it holds, which is eye-opening in its great variety. Titles include The Film Censor, The Film Renter, The Irish Limelight, The Picture Palace News, and Rinking World and Picture Theatre News (roller skating rinks and cinemas were closely allied around 1909-10, as many rinks were converted into cinemas).

Other countries have done so much better. Either through private enterprise, or through the dedicated endeavours of film institutes or national libraries, a good selection of film journals for the silent era is now available from Italy (the leader, thanks to the remarkable efforts of the Museo Nazionale del Cinema), France (courtesy of the national library’s Gallica website), USA (private enterprise and the Internet Archive) and Brazil (courtesy of the Biblioteca Digital das Artes do Espetaculo), with one-offs from Austria, Sweden, Spain and others.

The reason the UK has done so badly so far is partly down to no money, and partly down to copyright laws which effectively put the 20th century out of bounds for the time being (the British Library, for example, has made the decision that it will only digitise from its newspaper and journal collections up to 1900, to be on the safe side). There are research council funds available for an academic able to put together a persuasive bid, but there has been no success there as yet bar the Kinematograph Weekly project which – it has to be said – did things so badly that it may have queered the pitch for any other project hoping to digitise film journals.

The UK is not the only country with such a poor record (Germany, anyone?), but the lack of enterprise shown so far is profoundly disappointing. So, as things stands, we have one year of one journal, and that made available through the Internet Archive. How are we going to do better that this?

Bioscope Newsreel no. 29

Part of DVD cover for Metropolis, from Ain’t it Cool News

We’re publishing a little infrequently at present, both the regular posts and the newsreel, but the main thing is that we’re still publishing. Here’s a round-up of some of the recent silent news and events coming up.

Morodor’s Metropolis
The silent film version that many love to hate, while for others it is the version that was a welcome introduction to silents, is to come out on Blu-Ray. Electro-disco composer Giorgio Moroder’s score for Metropolis came out in 1984, and was controversial both for presenting a cut-down version (80mins) and for throwing pop songs on top of it (Freddy Mercury sings “Love Kills”, Pat Benatar sings “Here’s my Heart” – yep, it’s the 1980s). It’s become something of a cult favourite and now Kino are bringing it out theatrically in October and on Blu-Ray late 2011 or early 2012. Read more.

One-minute wonders
The Toronto Urban Film Festival (known as TUFF) brings new one-minute silent films, entered in competition, to be seen by 1.3 million daily commuters on the ONESTOP TTC subway platform screens. This year the guest judge for the festival is Atom Egoyan. It runs 9-18 September, and there are examples of some of the truly ingenious and creative videos submitted on the festival site. Read more.

Silents in New Zealand
A silent film festival offering more traditional fare is New Zealnd’s annual Opitiki Silent Film Festival, which this year takes place 2-4 September. The emphasis is on comedy and rugby, and there haven’t been too many silent rugby film programmes, to my recollection. The festival features Lloyf, Langdon, Keaton, Pollard and more, plus a one-hour silent film compilation All Blacks which features “footage of the 1905 Originals NZ touring team plus the 1924/1925 Invincibles”. Read more.

Où est Max?
Once again the Cine-Tourist website beats all competition in the cine-blogosphere with an engrossing (if very long) post, handsomely illustrated, on Max Linder, the films he shot in the streets of Vincennes, and what the locality says about him. None of these films can ever be called accidental in their choice of geography, because everything that we see makes the film that plays before us. Read more.

More journals online
More and more silent film journals are appearing on the Internet Archive, courtesy of Bruce Long of the Taylorology site and David Pierce of the Media History Digital Library. Long has added nine issues of Picture-Play for 1922-23 and one of Screenland for 1923; Pierce has added extra volumes of Moving Picture World for 1913, all of 1914, most of 1915, and three months each of 1916 and 1918. Copious thanks to both. Another Pierce upload is going to be the subject of a special post. Read more (Pierce) and more (Long)

‘Til next time!

The story of British Pathé

Bioscopists in the UK will certainly not want to be anywhere other than in front of their television sets on Thursday 18 August at 9pm, when episode one of the fourt-part series The Story of British Pathé is broadcast on BBC4.

This is to be a series not so much on the history of a newsreel, but rather of a collection (there never was a newsreel called British Pathé, but there is an archive of that name which includes the newsreels Pathé Gazette, Pathé News, and much else besides). The four episodes will cover the birth of the news, the voice of Pathé, Pathé’s cinemagazines, and the travelogues and docuentaries in the collection. Dates have not been given for the second, third and fourth programmes, but let’s assume that they will be broadcast on succeeding Thursdays.

All of the archive footage to be featured in the programmes can be found on the British Pathé site itself, one of the great treasure troves of archive film to be found online (both silent and sound), already trumpeted by the Bioscope on more than one occasion. It going to be very interesting to see what the programme makers make of a collection which has so often supplied essential content for television but has never been (to my knowledge) the subject of a programme itself (the celebrated Granada Television series All of Yesterdays used mostly Pathé footage but wasn’t about Pathé). It won’t be a regular history, I suspect, but I’m hopeful of seeing new insights from a production team that was largely new to this sort of material. And you may get a glimpse of two of your scribe, unless everything they shot ended up on the cutting room floor (not an impossibility, given my usual tongue-tied performance whenever anyone has the nerve to point a camera at me).

As usual, the programmes will be available for a week afterwards on iPlayer, for people in the UK only. Do let us have your thoughts about the programmes.

First flight

Seven frames from an otherwise lost film of British aviator Percy Pilcher, flying his ‘Hawk’ glider on 20 June 1897

We were discussing ‘first’ films the other day, and warning of the dangers of lapsing into ‘firstism’ when it comes to films. Too often asking “what was the first such-and-such film?” “what was the first film to …?” is the wrong question to ask, because it presupposes that film forms and subjects that we understand now were understood in the same way when films were being created for the first time. Moreover, no sooner do you announce that such and such a film was the first whatever then someone is bound to pop up and tell you of one that is earlier.

But the heck, it’s still a fun game to play. So here we present to you what may be the first film of human flight. The film – or rather the mere seven frames of the film that survive reproduced in the journal Nature from 12 August 1897 – shows the pioneering British aviator Percy Pilcher (1866-1899) taking off from a hillside, probably outside Eynsford, for 20 June 1897. The glider was one of his own construction, named ‘The Hawk’, and you can just make out that it is being towed as the aviator takes to the air. I have animated the seven frames and repeated them several times, since the action naturally lasts for less than a second. It is not known how long the original film was (it seems to have been made as a scientific record, not as a commercial release).

Aviation enthusiast and photographer William J.S. Lockyer (who may have taken the film) wrote in Nature about the particular point of the action that we see in these seven frames.

The start was made at a given signal, the line being pulled by three boys, and Mr. Pilcher gradually left the ground, and soarred gracefully into the air, attaining a maximum height of about 70 feet. After covering a distance of about 180 yards the line suddenly parted, a knot having slipped. The only apparent difference this made was that the operator began now to slowly descend, his motion in the horizontal direction being somewhat reduced. A safe and graceful landing was made at a distance of 250 yards from the starting-point. the photographs illustrate that part of the flight previous to the attainment of the greatest height.

The film records Pilcher’s first public demonstration of one of his gliders, with a party of scientists having been present to witness the occasion. On the same day Pilcher’s cousin Dorothy also flew the Hawk, in what is believed to be the first instance of a woman operating a heavier-than-air aircraft. It is said that she was being filmed as well when she crashed into the cinematograph operator. I do hope this is true and not just a good story.

Percy Pilcher would die in a crash flying the same glider two years later, aged just 32. Poignantly, Lockyer’s account tells us not only that “in these attempts it must not be forgotten that there is always a certain amount of danger” but adds the following hint of what might have been:

Mr. Pilcher now proposes to employ, as soon as possible, a small and light engine indicating about four hourse-power, this being considerably more than sufficient for flights of moderate length … With this improvement it is hoped that further distances will be covered, and a nearer approximation to a flying machine will be attained.

A true flying machine to make real the dream of powered flight would finally be achieved by the Wright brothers in 1903. We don’t know if Pilcher could ever have put his dreams into reality, but it is likely that he was the first human to be shown in flight on film. The Lumières filmed a balloonist taking off the following year in 1898 (Départ d’une montgolfière, 998) and a view of the ground below filmed from that balloon – probably the first example of aerial cinematography (Panorama pris d’un ballon captif, cat. no. 997).

The view from the air provided by Panorama pris d’un ballon (1898), from Die Kunst zu Fliegen in Film und Fotografie (Düsseldorf: NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft, 2004)

Balloonist Alberto Santos-Dumont was filmed by a Lumière operator on 19 September 1900 precariously perched beneath his dirigible, and in 1901 was filmed by the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company in Santos Dumont’s Aerial Flight Around the Eiffel Tower and Santos Dumont Explaining his Air Ship to the Hon. C.S. Rolls The Lumière films survive; the Biograph film of Dumont in flight does not. However the film of Dumont with Rolls was recently discovered in São Paulo as a Mutoscope reel and made the subject of a thoroughly researched documentary film, Santos Dumont’s Mutoscope (2010), directed by Brazilian scholar Carlos Adriano. Rolls was a pioneering aviator himself, and the first Briton to be killed in an airplane crash, in 1910. He was also the Rolls in Rolls-Royce.

Alberto Santos-Dumont (left) and C.S. Rolls in 1901, filmed by the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company and preserved as a Mutoscope reel

Santos-Dumont was also the first person to be filmed flying an aeroplane. A fleeting film exists, taken by I know not whom on 23 October 1906, showing his 14-bis aircraft undertaking the brief but first successful flight by a fixed-wing powered aircraft in Europe. The Wright brothers’ Flyer was not filmed until it was brought to Europe in August 1908 (Wilbur made the trip with Orville following in January 1909), when the aeroplane was filmed near Le Mans. Motion pictures of the Wright Flyer in Europe greatly helped spread the word that powered flight had been achieved.

Alberto Santos-Dumont’s brief flight in the 14-bis outside Paris on 23 October 1906

Orville and Wilbur Wright stayed in France until April 1909, when they moved for a short time to Italy. There another first was achieved, though there has perhaps been no more hotly contested a first in aviation filming than the first person to film from the air. I’ve come across so many competing claims. The film below was taken in Italy from Wilbur Wright’s aircraft, on 24 April 1909 by the Italian film company Società Italiana Pineschi (ignore the erroneous 1907 date given for the clip on YouTube). It is fairly certain that it is the first film taken from an airplane (if not – as already demonstrated – the first film taken from the air).

The view from Wilbur Wright’s Flyer, 24 April 1909

If you want a rudimentary, pseudo-philosophical overview of the relationship between early film and early flight (including pre-cinema and pre-flight), there’s my essay, ‘Taking to the Air‘, on my personal website. If you are interested in investigating the links between aviation and film once the plans were up in the air and the cinematograph was able to record them more fully, it’s well worth browsing through the archives of Flight magazine, covered fully in an earlier Bioscope post. And if I’ve got my various ‘firsts’ wrong – please tell me. It’s all part of the game.

Brides of Sulu

Adelina Moreno and Eduardo de Castro in Brides of Sulu, from

A lot of us will know the commonly accepted figure of 80% of all films from the silent era as being considered lost. The figures varies for different territories, however (and whether you are counting fiction films only or all kinds of production). For America there is an estimated a survival rate of 7-12% for each year of the teens (feature films only), moving to 15-25% for the 1920s, but for China the figure is 95% loss, and for Japan the figure is between 95% and 99% loss. For the Philippines the figure is even worse – 100% loss of all native silent film production. Or at least that was what was thought. But silent films can lurk in some surprising places.

Brides of Sulu is an obscure American B-movie, made anywhere between 1933 and 1937 according to assorted sources. It’s included in the American Film Institute’s catalogue for the 1930s. The film tell of two lovers from the Philippine islands, one a Mohammedan princess (Venita), the other a pagan pearl diver (Assam). To escape her aranged marriage to a local chief, the couple flee to a remote island only to be pursued by her tribe, determined to kill Assam. It was filmed in the Philippines, though there is apparently no written account there of its production, and has an American narration (the country was still a colony of the USA at this time). The film was directed by one John Nelson, of whom nothing else (according to IMDb) is known, and stars two Phillipines film actors, Adelina Moreno and Eduardo de Castro, as well as local Moro tribesmen.

Now Brides of Sulu is to feature at Manila’s International Silent Film Festival, because recent scholarship indicates that the film was made out of one, if not two, Philippine silents. According to the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film:

There were two late silent-era Filipino films made in 1931 about the Moros of Sulu – Princess Tarhata (Araw Movies) and The Moro Pirate (Malayan Movies). The first was produced by the forgotten cinematographer Jose Domingo Badilla, while the latter was produced and directed by Jose Nepomuceno, acknowledged as the Father of the Philippine movie industry. Tarhata‘s lead actress is Adelina Moreno, while main actor of Moro Pirate is Eduardo de Castro …

… Coincidentally, both Moreno and De Castro, are the main starring actors in Brides of Sulu. The film also looks like it has two separate parts- the dramatically acted scenes and the documentary portions. Which raises the the intriguing possibility- is Brides the mutant offspring of the re-cutting and reconstitution of two earlier local films via the editing room? Then dubbed in English and re-editorialized for U.S. release with the intention of making it look like an American production so it would be easier to sell abroad? And who is director John Nelson? … Why are his initials the same as those of Jose Nepomuceno’s? So is the nationality of the film American or Filipino?

For the exciting conclusion, please attend the opening of the 5th International Silent Film Festival on Aug. 26 at the Shangri-la Mall Cinema …

Well, given that they promise an exciting conclusion, and given that the film is to screen at a silent film festival, I think we are safe in declaring that the Philippines has found one, or maybe two, films from its silent heritage, the first such films known to survive. Brides of Sulu has circulated on assorted obscure video labels for many years, and you can view the whole film on YouTube.

Extract from Brides of Sulu, in which Assam (Eduardo de Castro) faces up to Datu Tamboyan, father of Benita (Adelina Moreno)

Viewing the film undoubtedly suggests a silent film cannibalised by some opportunistic American producer with some actuality footage and narration to make an exotic B-movie release. Maybe Jose Nepomuceno, a revered figure in Philippine film history who directed their first fiction film, Dalagang Bukid, in 1919, is ‘John Nelson’, though there doesn’t seem much reason why this should be. No doubt all will be revealed at the International Silent Film Festival, which is now in its fifth year. The festival takes place 26-28 August at the Shang Cineplex (Cinema 2), Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong Manila. Brides of Sulu will be screened with musical accoompaniment by Armor Rapista and the Panday Pandikal Cultural Troupe, which suggests that they will be dropping the American narration, which will be no bad thing. Other films screening at the festival are Nosferatu (Germany 1922), Akeyuku Sora (The Dawning Sky) (Japan 1929), L’Inferno (Dante’s Inferno) (Italy 1911), The Greek Miracle (Greece 1921) and Pilar Guerra (Spain 1926) – an impressive eclectic selection.

When certain information is reported on the provenance of Brides of Sulu, we will report it. Meanwhile, you can discover more about Jose Nepomuceno in a thesis by Nadi Tofighian of Stockholm University, The role of Jose Nepomuceno in the Philippine society: What language did his silent films speak? (2006), which shows what a rich history early Philippine filmmaking can boast, even without the films themselves to refer to.

Bad influence

From time to time we have noted the various publications from the silent era or just after which looked at the social effects of the cinema, particularly on children. Like most sociological treatises they are predicated on the anxieties of their age, or at least of the enquirer, and most are concerned with why children were spending so much time in front of the screen, how what they were watching might influence them adversely, and why they might not rather do something far healthier, like sports or visting public parks. And if they had to watch films, then why couldn’t they be educational ones? And so on. A number of these are freely available online, with links and short descriptions in the Bioscope Library.

Now, and with acknowledgements to the Research into Film blog where I came across it, UNESCO has published a word-searchable PDF of its 1961 annotated international bibliography, The influence of cinema on children and adolescents. The 107 page document is an extraordinary monument to fifty years of angst, with 491 reports on cinema’s influence on the young from the 1920s to the 1950s from all around the world. There is plenty here for the student of silent cinema, not just from the publications from the 1920s, but in later reports which (especially in the 1930s) interview people about their past experiences of filmgoing which inevitably look back to the silent era.

There are too many to list in their entirety, but by searching under “192” you can find everything with a 1920s publication date (there are none listed before that decade). Below are some choice examples, including the summaries provided by the UNESCO report which reveal that these documents often contains important primary evidence of filmgoing practice as well as evidence of contemporary attitudes.

Lscis, A. and Kejlina, I. Deti i kino.
[Children and the cinema]. Moscow,
General Directorate of Social Education,
Peoples I Commissariat of Instruction of the
RSFSR, Moscow, 1928, 85 p.
Chapter 1 presents information about collective infatuation or “cinematomania” of children collected by the Institute of Curricular Methods through an examination of 2,000 children in Moscow. Data are included on the dangerous influence on children of films which are not appropriate to their age. Chapter 2 describes the adaptation of film services for child audiences, the opening of a cinema for children, and the arrangements made for special children’s matinees. For the sake of comparison, information is also given about a children’s cinema in Germany during the same period.

Various practices adopted at the first children’s cinema (800 seats) in Moscow are outlined: in the foyer was a “cinema corner” with a mural newspaper and publicity material; a co-operative snack bar was opened and group games were organized; in the cinema hall proper, the services of an educational expert were made available.

Other subjects treated are the equipment needed for children’s cinemas and liaison between the children’s cinema and other children’s organizations. A report on the work of a children’s cinema and notes on several children’s films are included.

A diagram of educational work in connexion with the screening of three films before child audiences is given in the annex. Illustrated with six scenes from Soviet children’s films.

Japan, Ministry of Education.
Seishonen no Eiga-kogyo Kanran-jokyo Chosa Gaiyo, jo. / Summary of surveys on film-viewing by Children and adolescents, vol.I, Tokyo, Ministry of Education, Social Education Burecu, 1929, 79 p. (Kyoiku Eiga Kenkyu Shiryo / Data
for Research on Educational Films series, 3).

This volume is a summary of data collected on the cinema attendance of boys and girls of primary and secondary schools in Tokyo and Osaka. The surveys which produced the data were made in October 1927 in Tokyo, and in December 1921, in Osaka.

Part 1. Survey on primary schoolchildren
(1) Film-viewing by primary schoolchildren, accoring to sex.
(2) Film-viewing by primary schoolchildren, according to zones of industry.
Part 2. Survey on middle school pupils.
Part 3. Survey on pupils of girls in high schools.
Part 4. Comparison of Parts 1, 2 and 3, and conclusions.
Supplement. Observations of school authorities on the films shown and on the influence of film-viewing.

Dale, Edgar. The Content of Motion Pictures,
New York, MacMillan, 1935, 234 p.

A content analysis of 1,500 feature films (500 from each of the years 1920, 1925 and 1930). Ten categories were made: crime, sex, love, the comic element, mystery, war, children, history, travel and social propaganda. In 1930, love (29.6 per cent), crime (27.2 per cent) and sex (15 per cent) were the most important subjects, i.e. a total of 72 per cent of all subjects. 16 per cent were taken up by comedy, and 8.6 per cent jointly by mystery and war. Only one out of 500 films was a children’s film; in 1930 there were 7 historical and 9 travel films, but not one social propaganda film. An average of one crime film was seen each month by those who visited the cinema once a week. In nearly two-thirds of all cases, adolescents find crime films unattractive. Of 115 crime films shown in Columbus (Ohio) cinemas, murder techniques are shown in nearly every film, actual murder in 45, attempted murder in 21, and revolvers were used in 22 films. Sex films show: extra-marital relations, seduction, adultery, procuring, illegitimacy, prostitution and bedroom jokes. Romantic love films have for subject: melodrama, courtship, love, flirting, difficulties in marriage, historical romances.

Jimenez de Asua. L. Cinematagrafo y delincuencia.
[The cinema and delinquency] / In:
Revista de Criminalogia, Psiquiatria y Medicina
Legal, Buenos Aires, May-June 1929, p. 377-384.

Earlier studies of the influence of literature and art upon delinquency, especially of the young, began to be extended to the field of the movies soon after 1910. Such studies were undertaken in the United States of America and later in most leading countries of the world. The general conclusion is that the cinema is widely effective in suggesting crime. Various prophylactics have been attempted, of which public censorship has been most commonly and widely applied.

Pedro Casablanca has agitated for the international censorship and control of films, but the plan is scarcely practicable. The Brussels Congress for the Protection of Childhood (1921) sought to stimulate the production of a more educational type of picture. The only legitimate control over films must be in the interests of children and
here considerations of health are more important than morals.

Shuttleworth, F.K. and May, Mark A. The Social Conduct and Attitudes of Movie Fans. New York, MacMillan, 1933, 142 p. (Payne Fund Studies).

The first part concerns the relationship between cinema attendance and the character and social behaviour of young people. The test groups were composed of an equal number of “movie” and “non-movie” children, i.e. children who attended the cinema 4 or 5 times a week and children who went only twice a month. The results were based on
information obtained from the children and their teachers. It was found that “movie” children behaved less satisfactorily in general – were less co-operative, had less self-control and emotional stability, poorer judgement, poorer school performance – than the “non-movie” children. They were, however, more often cited by their class-mates as “best friends” and were more apt to admire others. No differences in honesty, perseverance, obedience and moral consciousness were observed between the two groups.

In the second part of the investigation the opinion of 416 “movie” and 443 “non-movie” children on a variety of matters were compared. Movie children were found to have more admiration for cowboys, popular actors, ballet girls, than “non-movie” children; they believe more readily that alcoholism exists, attach more importance to clothes, object more to parental control, go more often to dance parties, and read more, but what they read is not of good quality. The “non-movie” children showed a greater interest in students and teachers as film characters than did the “movie” children. However, these differences cannot be attributed solely to the cinema.

Such reports often reveal prejudice and partiality, but they also show the seriousness with which sociologists began to treat cinema in the 1920s. They placed emphasis upon empirical study, using such primary evidence as questionnaires, interviews, on-site observations and such like to reach their conclusions, rather than unsubstantiated opinion. They were as an important part of taking films seriously as were the film first theorists, film societies and film archives which likewise recognised the fundamental importance of the medium – a radical step in each case from what had gone before. In treating cinema seriously, however, they had a tendency to view their young subjects as laboratory animals. There is something rather unsettling about reading about children as objects to be controlled better if only they could be better understood. It is salutory to read audiences memoirs of the period, or indeed to think back to one’s own memories of cinema-going when young to and realise that cinema was, as it has always has been, about escape. And that includes escape from adult control or adult assumption of understanding. Worthy and impeccably empirical as such studies were, fundamentally they coiuld only ever uncover so much. The real cinema remains in our heads.

The examples above by Shuttleworth, May and Dale from the famous series of Payne Fund studies which in the 1930s investigated how the movies were influencing America’s youth. A thorough history, with much unpublished material included, is Garth S. Jowett, Ian C. Jarvie and Kathryn H. Fuller’s Children and the Movies: Media Influence and the Payne Fund Controversy.