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84 King Street, Soho, NYC, building that housed the Paradise Garage
photo sourced here.
- The scene or setting in which something takes place; a locale: “that non-cinematic venue of popular nightmares, the discotheque” (P.J. O'Rourke).
- A place for large gatherings, as a sports stadium.
Art House Cinema
By the end of the Second World War, a growing segment of the American filmgoing public was wearying of mainstream Hollywood films and began to seek out something different. In major cities and college towns across the country, art film theaters provided a venue for alternatives to the films playing in main-street movie palaces: British, foreign-language, and independent American films, as well as documentaries and revivals of Hollywood classics. A skeptical film industry dubbed such cinemas "sure seaters," convinced that patrons would have no trouble finding seats there. However, with the success of art films like Rossellini's Open City and Mackendrick's Tight Little Island, the meaning of the term "sure seater" changed and, by the end of the 1940s, reflected the frequency with which art house cinemas filled all their seats.
In Sure Seaters, Barbara Wilinsky explores the success of art film theaters in light of changes within both Hollywood and American society in the immediate postwar era. After defining what an "art film" was in this period, she looks at the rise of art house cinemas, their prewar predecessors, and the traditional film distribution system dominated by the Hollywood studios. She next looks at the appeal that art film theaters had for a certain audience, the efforts made by cinema owners to create an appropriately intellectual and exclusive environment, the role of film critics and censors, the expectations and attitudes of art house filmgoers, and the experience of attending art film theaters in the 1940s. By examining the development of the theaters that introduced such challenging, personal, and artistic films as The Bicycle Thief and The Red Shoes to American audiences, Wilinsky offers a more complete understanding of postwar popular culture and the often complicated relationship between art cinema and the commercial film industry that ultimately shaped both and resulted in today's vibrant film culture. --Barbara Wilinsky
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