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Grand Rapids in 1856

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Television vs. Movies

Television vs. Movies

GRHC - December 4th, 2012

Television was viewed as the destroyer of movies during the 1950s. Was that really the case or were there other contributing causes?


In the 1950s there seemed to be a nation-wide epidemic of darkened movie houses. The top villain, according to many, was television.

Or, was television just the whipping boy? In the 1890s the player piano would end piano teaching and be the end of culture. When the gramophone was introduced in the early 20th century, the end of live music was predicted. Motion pictures became the rage and it meant the end of stage productions. Radio was supposed to be the death of both movies and the stage.

To the new viewer, television was a show from their favorite chair where they could smoke and have a beer. Pessimists again saw the death of the movie theater with the advent of television. Or, did the movie distributors and movie houses bring the lack of customers on themselves? Pictures were over-hyped; theaters showed two films, an A feature followed by a B rated film, described by a distributor as “one Piperoo and one Stinkeroo.”

In the 1950s there were four downtown first-run movie theaters: Keiths, and Regent both closed in 1962 [correction – Keiths closed in 1962, Regent September 29, 1964]; Midtown, in 1972; and Majestic in 1974. Neighborhood theaters like the Eastown no longer exist.

Movie theaters didn’t die, rather they assumed a new configuration. Suburban flight, limited parking, and especially advances in technology were a few elements contributing to the change. Local movie theaters still exist, but in a very different venue, the suburban multiplex cinema. 

Full Details

TitleTelevision vs. Movies
KeywordsGlance at the Past; WYCE; radio; history; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; television; movies; theaters
Pubdate StringDecember 4th, 2012

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