Moore, Paul S.
Now Playing: Early Moviegoing and the Regulation of Fun.
Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008.
It is difficult to disentangle the development of the twentieth-century city from that of film. Perceptions of the city were powerfully shaped by and mediated through film, and throughout its history, film has been profoundly influenced by the shifting nature of urban spaces and urban experiences. Moreover, changes in the moviegoing experience have reflected and shaped changes in cityscapes (e.g. the shift from stand-alone, neighbourhood or downtown cinemas to suburban multiplexes). In Now Playing: Early Moviegoing and the Regulation of Fun, Paul S. Moore examines this relationship with a detailed discussion of the development of cinemas and the moviegoing experience in early-Twentieth Century Toronto.
Moore demonstrates how local practices of moviegoing in Toronto played a key role in the development of moviegoing as a mass practice. "Film," he argues, "had first to be integrated into the culture of particular cities to become a national or global practice" (2). Moore examines the role of municipal and provincial regulation (from fire-safety regulations to the creation of formalized censorship), showmanship (the promotional and other practices of the theatre owners), and promotion and journalism (both in terms of advertising in newspapers and the related development of journalistic interest in film and moviegoing) in transforming moviegoing into a mass practice in the Toronto of the period. Moore's extensive archival research and attention to detail effectively illustrate his claims, in the process revealing fascinating local particularities to early moviegoing in Toronto, such as the surprising role of fire-safety regulations (and the legitimate fear of fire in public spaces), for example, in formalizing and legitimating moviegoing. If at times lacking in memorable anecdotes and a bit bogged down in minutiae, Now Playing provides a thorough discussion of a fascinating topic, and will be invaluable to all readers interested in early moviegoing or Toronto during this period.
It is probably of less value, however, to urban studies scholars. Despite Moore's frequent references to the essential role of urban cultures in the transformation of moviegoing into a mass practice, particularly in the introduction, that is not really the focus of the book. Rarely does Moore focus on how the city as...