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1 year ago

The Surprising History Of New Hampshire Movie Theaters (Pt. 2)

From music halls near Boston, Massachusetts to movie theaters near Portsmouth, New Hampshire, public performance in New England has a long history. The first public performance pieces in the area probably originated centuries ago amongst Native American tribes. The first Europeans to arrive in the area frowned on such displays, being Puritans. Despite the rich stories contained in the Bible which have since inspired a multitude of theatrical presentations, most of the Puritans rejected theater as a sinful display based on a lie. It was not until the dawn of the American Revolution that political satirists such as playwright Mercy Otis Warren began to find acceptance of their productions. Complaints from authorities continued, of course, because of the art form's fertile environment for the spread of dissent. The remnants of Puritan life echoed in the New England for decades and, even though diminishing, still stamped out a good deal of personal expression.

The theater finally started to gain footing at the dawn of the nineteenth century. In this primordial stage of New England theater, it was not uncommon for violent fights and arson to take place surrounding performances. W.H. Smith wrote "The Drunkard" in 1844 to great acclaim, which would carry on performances of the play for decades. The success of productions like "The Drunkard" established New England as a destination for performers and the number of available playhouses increased dramatically as a result. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, as the modern cinema began to develop, regional film companies like Photoplay, Eastern Film and Pine Tree Pictures started up in the region.

New England in the first half of the twentieth century was where the cultural movement known as the "American Renaissance," called the "New England Renaissance" by some, took place. The expanding film market utilized New England's wealth of literature to build a catalog of American productions, basing films on the works of regional authors such as Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, was first produced on film by Kalem Pictures in 1909 and was remade in 1917, 1926, 1934 and most recently in 1995. Henry James, a later author, would echo Hawthorne's success on the big screen with over fourteen films made from his works, including The Innocents—based on his novella "The Turn of the Screw." Historians have observed in the work of both men a representation of the New England landscape. The look of New England has continued to be used by directors into the present, taking advantage of the contrasting landforms and seasonal weather.

New England motion pictures were also heavily influenced by the work of regional playwrights. The playwright from Connecticut Eugene O'Neill may be the most important name in the history of New England theater. The year 1940 saw the work of another theater luminary, playwright Thornton Wilder, move from the stage to the cinema with his "Our Town." The film used the town of Peterborough, New Hampshire as a shooting location which made perfect sense as it was the town that had inspired Wilder's play. Between these two men, the region was well represented on the big screen and the isolated small town life found there was clearly defined for posterity. Many plays and films featured the contrast between hazardous urban life with the simplistic life in small fishing villages, including 1915's The Old Homestead. The film was produced by Famous Players from Denman Thompson's long-running nineteenth-century play about Joshua Whitcomb, set between New Hampshire and New York City.

Theater continues to play an important role to this day because in many areas of rural New England the nearest movie theater may be the local opera house or museum and not a multiplex cinema. You may want to remember the long history the next time you take a seat in a New Hampshire movie theater and remark at our progress.

1 year ago

Local Cinemas Deserve Our Support

Bootlegging of movies may be at an all time high. It has been estimated that movie bootlegging costs over $900 million and the loss of 23,000 jobs annually in New York state. Combined with DVD piracy, internet leaks and the resulting losses in production, the state can lose over $3 billion in a year.

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The industry faces some true hurdles in stopping bootlegging, in part because it can be done so easily; simply sneaking a camera into a movie theater. Each cam, the common phrase for such a bootlegged movie, only earns one ticket profit for theaters while multiple people are able to view it. Smaller and smaller cameras, like those in mobile phones, are making older bootleg-fighting tactics like banning bags from theaters futile. Night vision technology has been employed by some theaters in an attempt to catch bootleggers in the act of recording a film. Other cams are made from the projectionist booth itself, recorded by actual employees of the movie theater. This can offer advantages, such as unobstructed views, modified frame rates and improved audio which can be connected directly from the monitor output.

More easily obtained are rips and screeners. The ripping of DVDs is the use of software to extract a copy from officially licensed media-a rip. This is a quick means of reproducing a movie and the quality tends to be high. A screener (SCR) is an advance copy from studios which are used for production or promotional purposes and usually lacking finishing touches, generally "rough cuts" never meant for public viewing. A great deal of money can be lost to SCRs when they are leaked online as movie studios often decide to amend or even cancel the production. A Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) decision to address the problem has been to issue strictly binding contracts to strengthen privacy and attempt to limit advance copies. A leak to the public earned one offender a $150,000 fine for each title leaked.

Aside from monetary concerns, the creators behind a film often express that their creativity is being diminished by bootleggers. The quality does tend to be lessened in these releases, in packaging if not image or sound quality. Of course, finding a title for sale on the streets before the movie has even been released to theaters. It should go without saying, but some people need it to be said: the absolute best way to experience the highest quality film is in a local cinema.

Motivations to bootleg movies are more than just financially centered. When a title has a moratorium placed on its release, it limits the amount of time or the quantity during which it can be sold. This is a superficial means of invoking supply and demand economics which can drive sales. Removing the titles from store shelves for years at a time creates a vacuum which bootleggers are happy to fill. In a similar manner, limited run releases and movies that have yet to be released may lead can also attract the attention of bootleggers.

We all need to pitch in to stop these activities that are harming New Hampshire movie theatres. Residents of New Hampshire are urged to report bootlegging to 1-800-NO COPYS (1-800-662-6797).