The archeology of itinerant film exhibition

Unpacking the Brinton Entertainment Company Collection

Authored by: Kathryn Fuller-Seeley

The Routledge Companion to New Cinema History

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138955844
eBook ISBN: 9781315666051
Adobe ISBN:


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What can we learn from one small 1904 datebook about the historical development of American film exhibition? This case study addresses some of the new cinema history’s methodological challenges of contextualizing fragmentary evidence of the past, by examining the business practices of a pioneering itinerant film exhibition troupe (Maltby, Biltereyst, and Meers, 2011). I will frame some preliminary findings from documents found in the recently accessioned papers of exhibitor W. Frank Brinton (1857–1919) of Washington, Iowa. 1 Starting in the mid-1880s with a one-man show featuring magic lantern slides of the Holy Land, Brinton’s fascination with new mechanical technologies of showmanship led him to expand his program over time, incorporating a phonograph and motion picture projector into his repertoire to construct a multimedia show combining education and entertainment. Between 1897 and 1908, Brinton and his young wife Indiana, along with two or three assistants, toured extensively around Iowa and the Midwestern Plains states with a two-hour program that incorporated films, music and songs, vaudeville performances from a blackface comic and a midget, stereopticon slides, lectures, and demonstrations of model airships, which Brinton sent floating around opera house interiors (sometimes piloted by the midget).

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