They all are right; and at the same time they all are wrong when they praise one at the expense of another. Realistic and idealistic, practical and romantic, historical and modern topics are fit material for the art of the photoplay. Its world is as unlimited as that of literature, and the same is true of the style of treatment. The humorous, if it is true humor, the tragic, if it is true tragedy, the gay and the solemn, the merry and the pathetic, the half-reel and the five-reel play, all can fulfill the demands of the new art.
THE FUNCTION OF THE PHOTOPLAY
Enthusiasts claim that in the United States ten million people daily are attending picture houses. Sceptics believe that “only” two or three millions form the daily attendance. But in any case “the movies” have become the most popular entertainment of the country, nay, of the world, and their influence is one of the strongest social energies of our time. Signs indicate that this popularity and this influence are increasing from day to day. What are the causes, and what are the effects of this movement which was undreamed of only a short time ago?
The economists are certainly right when they see the chief reason for this crowding of picture houses in the low price of admission. For five or ten cents long hours of thrilling entertainment in the best seats of the house: this is the magnet which must be more powerful than any theater or concert. Yet the rush to the moving pictures is steadily increasing, while the prices climb up. The dime became a quarter, and in the last two seasons ambitious plays were given before audiences who paid the full theater rates. The character of the audiences, too, suggests that inexpensiveness alone cannot be decisive. Six years ago a keen sociological observer characterized the patrons of the picture palaces as “the lower middle class and the massive public, youths and shopgirls between adolescence and maturity, small dealers, pedlars, laborers, charwomen, besides the small quota of children.”