At the Tristan Hoare Gallery in London, you’ll find a fascinating exhibition about US movie theatres, featuring forgotten palaces of entertainment whose time ran out.
Undoubtedly melancholy in spirit, the exhibition is a needed wake-up call that these once- popular treasures can be saved if a will and a way (and several million dollars in cash) can be found.
The book which the exhibition is based upon, Movie Theaters, is a recently-published work by two French photographers, Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, the result of a 15-year collaboration which captures the former “cathedrals of cinema” of America. Shooting with a large format 4×5 camera using long exposures in dimly-lit auditoriums, the images are conceived as historical documents of what was once the Golden Era of the American movie-going experience.
From the venue’s website: “Many of the theatres captured by Marchand and Meffre date from the Golden Age of American film (1910s to 30s) when the big film studios competed to build extravagant venues to entice and thrill their audiences. A night at the movies was a glamorous occasion where the buildings themselves became as much of a draw as the movie being screened. Following the stock market crash in 1929 and in the post-war era thereafter, multiplexes and shopping malls made these theatres redundant, inevitably causing them to fall into disrepair. Many were converted into a multitude of purposes ranging from churches, retail space, flea markets, bingo halls, discos, supermarkets, gymnasiums, or warehouses, and often with comical results! While some remain relatively unchanged, others clash with their newfound purpose, creating unexpected spaces which act as a fascinating documents of American History.
The exhibition presents the never-before exhibited Proctor’s Theater, Troy, NY (2012), taking the central place in the gallery’s first room. The works exhibited present examples of abandoned theatres with their curtains torn and seats shrouded in decades of dust, reused cinemas in disrepair, acting as bus depots or car workshops, and finally those that have been reused and refurbished, often hiding the grand vaulted ceilings and ornamental mouldings that once attracted visitors. The exhibition will also present a series of typologies of the exteriors of the grand movie palaces Marchand and Meffre ventured into.
Marchand and Meffre’s images represent some of the survivors of a century of industrial, aesthetic and social change, their continued existence prompting a sense of nostalgia for the golden age of American cinema which carried American values, ideas and entertainment across the world.”
The free exhibition runs until March 11th and the gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 6pm.
Tristan Hoare, 6 Fitzroy Square, London W1T 5DX
(close to Warren Street and Great Portland Street Underground stations)
Find the gallery’s website here
For those intrigued, the huge book from which the exhibition is curated has 300 pages with 220 colour illustrations, and is currently available on Amazon at a substantially discounted price here