Circuits of Cinema: Mapping Itinerant Shows

 

PANEL for Society of Cinema & Media Studies 2016:
Circuits of Cinema: Methods & Cases for Histories of Film Distribution

Funded by the Social Science & Humanities Research Council of Canada

  • Paul S Moore, Ryerson University, Canada
  • Sébastien Caquard, Concordia University, Canada
  • Deb Verhoeven, Deakin University, Australia
  • Kathy Fuller-Seeley, U Texas Austin, United States
  • Project with Jeffrey Klenotic, U New Hampshire
  • Mapping Research Assistant: Aires Wang, Concordia

Visualizing the Space & Pace of Itinerant Shows, 1896 to 1908

ABSTRACT, for presentation at the Society of Cinema & Media Studies, Atlanta April 2016.

A hundred traveling ‘showmen’ built a mass market for movies. For cinema’s first decade from 1896, these showmen, itinerant entrepreneurs who owned projectors and films, followed the same routes as circus and theatre troupes, religious and educational lecturers, and electioneering politicians. Yet, the novelty of cinema allowed a nearly identical projection, coast to coast. Geographic mapping provides data visualizations of the movements of early showmen within continental and international transportation, communication, and civic institutions. The visualizations are built on top of gathering information about nearly 10,000 “shows” as noted and advertised in newspapers, now digitally searchable. Maps and abstract representations reveal structures of cinema as inter-regional. The results show how movies found their mass audience first within local and regional routines, embedded in transnational cultural networks. In this research, I combine the fields of Media Archaeology and Digital Humanities, connecting film showmanship to communication history by mapping the structures of early cinema’s continental circulation.