Friday Art: Movies, Five Cents by John Sloan (1907)

I’ve posted Sloan before and will again since I’m a big fan of the Ashcan School material. Even if much of it centers around city life in New York where I’ve never lived, everyday modern city life is, well, everyday modern city life everywhere, really. So I always like seeing the simple scenes of everyday people livin’ the life.

And what a tiny movie theater Sloan shows us here – such a small, cramped space with that hint of a wall and lowering ceiling in the upper left – but that’s the way it was in 1907, barely out of the nickelodeon era, right around the time DeMille and others began filming in Hollywood and not New Jersey. In 1907, no American knew who Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton or even who DW Griffith was yet. It was all in its infancy, usually depicting plain and boring domestic dramas, hints of which Sloan gives us on that black and white screen.

Our audience is prety well dressed, racially mixed, and unlike modern audiences, not texting on their damn smartphones. They’re all fixated on the screen, except for the center figure looking right at us, as if we’re the ones coming down the aisle with the popcorn to sit next to her.

And if movies were five cents again, maybe I’d go more often.

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