First Advisor

David A. Horowitz

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Motion picture audiences -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, Motion picture theaters -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, Motion pictures -- Oregon -- Portland -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, 166 p.)


For about the first fifteen years after its commercial introduction motion picture entertainment throughout the United States was supported almost entirely by the mass of urban industrial workers, immigrants and their families. Beginning a few years before 1910 motion pictures began acquiring regular support from a limited element of the more affluent citizens until by the end of 1916 they constituted motion pictures' primary audience. This paper examines the audience development and conversion as it occurred in the downtown theaters of Portland, Oregon. Motion pictures were shown to two diverse audiences in Portland during the 1890s, regularly on a mass level to the lower income strata and sporadically to regular stage theater audiences. Their expectations differed greatly. Urban workers craved entertainment for the sake of diversion while middle and upper class audiences required responsibility and purpose in their entertainments. After the turn of the century when big time vaudeville established itself in Portland films were supported almost entirely by the lower class element in arcades and vaudeville theaters. Motion pictures in these venues catered to their audiences' tastes. During the 4-5 year period after nickelodeons developed in 1906 a small number of Portland's middle class became regular patrons, due partially to national imposition of licensing and establishment of a censorship board fostering a more respectable image. After 1910, when national support for motion pictures had been proven permanent and unsatisfied, large movie palaces emerged in Portland. These theaters and their amenities created atmospheres consistent with those of stage theaters, providing comfortable and familiar surroundings for middle class audiences. Industrywide developments such as increased story length, better quality productions and evidence of social responsibility enhanced the ease of middle class transition from the stage theater to the movie theater.


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