Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace is a big screen documentary written and directed by April Wright.
Other countries built palaces for royalty, in the United States we built them to watch movies.
The 100 year history of how the American movie experience evolved so quickly from nickelodeons to the studio system and huge movie palaces of the teens and twenties and their eventual decline through present day including current preservation efforts.
What started as individual entertainment in penny arcades moved to a shared experience in nickelodeons. Next, when movies evolved from a lower class entertainment to mainstream, large movie palaces were built and the studio system grew in the teens and twenties. All of the grand movie palaces were built in a very compressed period of time between approximately 1915 with many converting from Vaudeville, through the early 30s. The addition of sound spawned the golden age of cinema in the 1930s in these architecturally gorgeous theatres in metropolitan areas which thrived as an escape from the great depression.
After World War II, television became popular and single screen theaters followed on main streets everywhere as a result of suburban sprawl and the baby boom. This led to a sharp decline in the downtowns of American cities. The classic theatres were too large and expensive to maintain. By the 1970s they tried to survive with exploitation films and alternative programming. Often these palaces were split or multiplexed. But more often, they closed, and were allowed to decay. In a country that is synonymous with the film industry, we have allowed our history to be lost as we’ve demolished many of our country’s palaces.
But many individuals have worked tirelessly to preserve, restore and maintain this piece of history so it can be enjoyed by future generations. However, many still stand in the balance, waiting for the funds to bring these landmarks back to life.