The First Nickelodeon

Harry Davis opened the first storefront theater, which he called the Nickelodeon, in June 1905. One cinema historian ventures to say that ďwith the possible exception of Koster & Bialís [where Edisonís vitascope premiered in April 1896], the Nickelodeon . . . is the most famous theater in which motion pictures were shown prior to 1914.Ē It was also an instant hit, and within a few weeks, Davis was screening films from 8 a.m. till midnight and earning $1,000 per week. By 1907, there were 2,500 to 3,000 nickelodeons in the United States. The box office of the typical storefront theater was out front, soon to be crowned by neon signage and flanked by gaudy banners and posters. Inside, customers often encountered inadequate seating, dim lighting, and insufficient ventilation. Itís impossible, however, to underestimate the importance of the nickelodeon in the development of the movies: it gave birth to a moviegoer who would grow accustomed to viewing films in an exhibition format free from the diversions of vaudeville and the amusement park.

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