"See yourself in the movies!"
Prior to the advent of the home movie camera and the ubiquitousness of the camera phone, there was the local film. This cultural phenomenon, produced across the country from the 1890s to the 1950s, gave ordinary people a chance to be on the silver screen without leaving their hometowns. Through these movies, residents could see themselves in the same theaters where they saw major Hollywood motion pictures. Traveling filmmakers plied their trade in small towns and cities, where these films were received by locals as being part of the larger cinema experience. With access to the rare film clips under discussion, Main Street Movies documents the diversity and longevity of local film production and examines how itinerant filmmakers responded to industry changes to keep sponsors and audiences satisfied. From town pride films in the 1910s to Hollywood knockoffs in the 1930s, local films captured not just images of local people and places but also ideas about the function and meaning of cinema that continue to resonate today.
Martin L. Johnson is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Accessing Moving Images
Introduction: Defining the Local Film
1. The Silent Pageant: Municipal Booster Films
2. The Home Talent Film and the Origins of Itinerancy
3. "How Movies Are Made": Hollywood and the Local Film
4. Itinerants Adopt a Baby: The Local Hollywood Film and the Operational Aesthetic
5. Kidnapping the Movie Queen: Amateur Aesthetics as Cultural Critique
6. The Cameraman Has Visited Your Town: The Local Film and the Politics of Recognition
7. Every Town has its Main Street: The Banal Localism of the Civic Film
8. Reclaiming the Local Film: Artifacts, Archives, and Audiences
Conclusion: See Your Town Disappear: The Historicity of the Local Film