The First Movie Exhibition Spaces Were Called?
In the early 20th century, long before the rise of ubiquitous dedicated cinemas in every town big or small, there were the nickelodeons. The term, a portmanteau of the name of the American five-cent coin, the nickel, and the Greek word “odeion” (to refer to a roofed theater), referred to small dedicated indoor exhibition spaces that showcased early films. The cost of admission was, as the name implied, a nickel.
The nickelodeons ran a rotating arrangement of short films, each around 10-15 minutes in length. The short films displayed considerable diversity compared to modern movies and patrons could expect to see comedies, recordings of theatrical productions, “actualities” (a precursor to the modern documentary film), “scenics” (literally films of pretty scenery, shot from railcars traversing the country), stop-motion films, dramas, illustrated stories, and more.
Eventually, the rise of the feature length film and the need to create bigger and more elaborate theaters to showcase such films led to the decline of the much smaller nickelodeons. By the end of the 1910s, the nickelodeon had all but vanished, supplanted by the gilded and velvet-draped theaters that defined the early age of feature films.
Image courtesy of William James/Wikimedia.