“It Pays to Plan ’em!”

The newspaper movie directory and the paternal logic of mass consumption

Authored by: Paul S. Moore

The Routledge Companion to New Cinema History

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138955844
eBook ISBN: 9781315666051
Adobe ISBN:


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“‘How did we ever do without the movies?’ is the universal comment as dad brings his delighted brood home from the show.” This scenario opened a 1922 quarter-page advertisement in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, labeled an Early Buying Bulletin (EBB) and headlined “Tonight’s Movie” (EBB, No. 6, 15 January 1922). The ad copy anchored an illustration of a trio of children surrounding their mother as she sat in an easy chair reading a newspaper. The ad was selling the newspaper itself, in particular the movie directory for its capacity to help plan an evening’s entertainment. The steps before going to the movie were depicted – two daughters looked over mom’s shoulder at the movie directory while a young son awaited their choice, poised with mother’s hat and coat in hand. But then father – curiously absent from the illustration – got to speak the last word on the way home after the show: “How did we ever do without the movies?” Why was father the one asking this rhetorical question, when he was not apparent in the planning at home? In the context of a patriarchal family using the movies to bridge public and private spheres, was the expression of wonderment and excitement only elevated to a “universal comment” when said by father? Spoken paternally, the question seems to become a statement of the movies as a measure of social progress. Predictable, orderly leisure and amusement at the movies was now, by 1922, an extension of the nuclear family’s middle-class home – central to the ideology of mass consumption and thus at the very center of modernity.

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