The Motion Picture as Product Category

The assertion that this popular film “impressed itself so deeply on audiences . . . partly because it re-created the shock value of a notorious poster brand” is questionable. The image that became its signature, however, was clearly borrowed from a well-known poster advertising a packaged cleanser. In turn, Edison itself advertised the film heavily, as did Kleine Optical, a licensed distributor. By January 1904 (a month after the film’s release), Edison was offering prospective exhibitors a “fully illustrated and descriptive pamphlet” featuring the film’s recognizable emblemlatic shot of actor George Barnes aiming a pistol at viewers. Advertising was growing as a method for promoting products, and most producers recognized at a quite early date the advantage of marketing motion pictures as a product category.

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