The Great White Way and the Way of All Flesh: Metropolitan Film Culture and the Business of Film Exhibition in Times Square, 1929-1941

Nathaniel Brennan

PhD Candidate

This article explores the history of the Rialto Theater in Times Square from the onset of the Depression to the American entry into World War II. Drawing on recent discussions of the local turn in film history, it argues for a more sustained engagement with the sociocultural contexts specific to the history of metropolitan film exhibition and reception. By taking the Rialto of the 1930s as a case study, the essay demonstrates both the challenges and potential for the adaptation of the methods of local film history to the metropolitan scene. It situates the Rialto within the local economy of the Times Square entertainment district as well as within a number of the concerns central to the city's economic recovery, including the politics and negotiation of public space, the policing of amusement and pleasure, and the integration of commerce and infrastructure.

Published in Film History Vol. 27, No. 2, 2015 by Indiana University Press.