Chasing Mr. C: Early Motion-Picture Exhibition in Robeson County, North Carolina (1896-1950) Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • McKenna, Chris
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This dissertation seeks to document the development of early moviegoing in a specific North Carolina county during the first half-century of commercial film exhibitions. Several local factors resulted in exhibition developments that often did not conform--or only partially conformed--to the metro-centric narratives that have dominated U.S. cinema history. Instead, Robeson's exhibitors and audiences faced a series of economic, socio-cultural, and racial challenges that shaped the highly-contingent and inescapably public activity of moviegoing in the county's rural, highly-decentralized, socially conservative, and racially discriminatory small-town communities. This study depicts local moviegoing as neither a ubiquitous nor fully accessible leisure activity due to: Local demographic factors that delayed the implementation of core commercial infrastructures and slowed the introduction and stabilization of local exhibitions until long after several notable exhibition trends that never meaningfully applied to Robeson had long since reshaped metropolitan moviegoing. The concerns of local civic and religious leaders that nearly resulted in the imposition of a cinema-censorship structure based on a legislative proposal during the 1921 General Assembly that had been co-sponsored by a Robeson County delegate. Local racial codes that sanctioned the tri-segregation of virtually all political, social, religious, and civic spaces, and which led Robeson's exhibitors and audiences (respectively) to construct or navigate aggressively segregated facilities whose locally paradigmatic form, the three-entrance theater, intentionally re-inscribed these codes within physical structures designed to perpetuate the second-class treatment of non-whites.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Marr, Timothy
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013

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