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December 1999

From 1905 to 1912, thousands of small movie houses, called nickelodeons for their cheap admission price, appeared in American cities. These tiny theaters provided accessible and affordable entertainment to workers and immigrants.

Nickelodeons offered cheap and convenient entertainment for urban workers. The flexible time schedule of nickelodeon shows made it easy for them to attend. Women and children also made up a substantial portion of the nickelodeon's audience. Immigrants found no language barriers in the exciting pantomimes of the moving pictures.

Nickelodeons were typically converted stores equipped with simple wooden chairs, a projector, a canvas screen and a piano for musical accompaniment to the silent films. The outside of the Nickelodeon was alive with electric lights, painted signs and colorful movie posters. Inexpensive to build and operate , nickelodeons were a wildly successful innovation.

Experience a re-creation of a nickelodeon inside Henry Ford Museum and learn about more technologies that shaped Americans over the past 100 years in our newest exhibit, "Your Place in Time: 20th Century America!"

Buffalo, New York from the Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection, 37.102. (Box 17) Click to enlarge

Detail of above.


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