Chapter 6


As for the “purchase” of a ”copy” of a film on the Internet, this purchase as we know remains in the realm of the virtual. Or one streams the film, in which case one can only audio-view it while online, and once the viewing is over nothing remains of the film, even if it remains for a while on our computer. Or one purchases a file directly, which becomes our property, except that legally we do not have the right to transfer it to another computer or bequeath it to our heirs.

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On the topic of the distinction between type and token, see André Gaudreault, “Cet art plus photographique qu’autographique que serait le cinéma . . .,” in Joseph Delaplace, Pierre-Henry Frangne and Gilles Mouëllic, eds., L’oeuvre de l’art: La pensée esthétique de Gérard Genette (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2012), pp. 211-19.


Thomas Elsaesser, “La notion de genre et le film comme produit ‘semi-fini’: L’exemple de Weihnachtsglocken de Franz Hofer (1914),” 1895 50 (2006).

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To say that the manufacturer ceded all its rights to the exhibitioner also means that the former ceded to the latter the right to show the film-token he had bought until it was threadbare. Because manufacturers offered only one means of acquiring animated pictures, through the outright purchase of prints, this transaction required the exhibitioner to make an investment which could only be amortized through prolonged use of the film. This was not particularly disadvantageous financially, as he was able to find new audiences by going from town to town or village to village. The exhibitioner’s concern was thus not with obtaining a steady supply of new film-tokens, but rather in finding new audiences. This, on a commercial level, was not a great stimulant for the animated picture “manufacturing” economy, because it did not encourage the introduction of new titles on the market.


In the end manufacturers agreed that it was in their interests to break this system of the direct sales of films to exhibitioners, because doing so made them lose all control over the fate of the product they had made.

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They thus revolved to put an end to the sale of their films and adopted a rental system, which took hold between 1905 and 1910 (varying by country). This new method sounded the death knell of itinerant exhibition in turn and presaged the advent of permanent movie theatres devoted to the specialized presentation of “picture shows,” in the sense the term was understood at the time. Gradually, by establishing places specifically devoted to this kind of entertainment – such as nickelodeons in the United States – where people could take part in this new form of “going out” that was taking root in society – that of going to the movies – exhibitors developed a loyal clientele. Movie-goers were also courted by showing pictures that were more complete, more complex and more polished than what they had been accustomed to before then.


John Collier, “Cheap Amusements,” published initially on April 11, 1908 in Charities and Commons and reproduced in Richard Abel, The Red Rooster Scare: Making Cinema American, 1900–1910 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 75–76.


To adopt the English-language term “picture palace” (which was also found in French, as in the case of the popular Gaumont Palace in Paris), in current use from the 1910s to the 1950s.


This, at least, is the view of John Eberson, an American movie theater architect working between 1915 and 1950: “Here we find ourselves today . . . building super-cinemas of enormous capacities, excelling in splendor, in luxury and in furnishings the most palatial homes of princes and crowned kings for and on behalf of His Excellency—the American Citizen.” Quoted by Karal Ann Marling, “Fantasies in Dark Places: The Cultural Geography of the American Movie Palace,” in Textures of Place: Exploring Humanist Geographies, ed. Paul C. Adams, Steven Hoelscher, and Karen E. Till (2001), 10.


The Pathé Kok (1912) and Pathé-Baby (1922) were two home movie systems, for the well-off of course. The former used 28-mm film and the latter 9.5-mm film.


The authors thank Kim Décarie of GRAFICS at the Université de Montréal for bringing this model of home theater avant la lettre to their attention.

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The ancestors of video rental stores known as the Kodascope Libraries are described in the following terms on a page of the site Flickr ( which also reproduces an advertising poster from the 1930s announcing “A Cinema in Your Own Home”: “Kodak begins operating THE KODASCOPE LIBRARIES in the spring of 1925, around various parts of the country in regional offices and local camera stores. An early precursor to the video tape rental store, Kodak leased negatives of fine grain prints from a variety of Hollywood producers and made stunning amber and sepia tinted prints for rental purposes.” The text is taken from the site Robbies Reels (


Édouard Arnoldy, À perte de vues: Images et “nouvelles technologies,” d’hier et d’aujourd’hui (2005), 31.


Bruno Icher, “Le cinéma, produit d’appel des nouvelles technologies,” Libération, May 16, 2007.

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The first part of this sentence dates from a few years ago (for a presentation at a conference), when people were already carrying out such an activity less and less. Today, people only rarely rent a DVD, given all the other choices available. The media galaxy is in a period of transition, when one new practice quickly replaces another, which is often not that old.

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