CMN! no.1 (Autumn 1996)

A History of Movie Theaters and Audiences

in Postwar Kyoto, the Capital of Japanese Cinema

Kato Mikiro

associate professor of cinema studies, University of Kyoto

The Centennial of the "Movie Theater"

Why Do People Go to the Movies?

The Birth of the Modern Movie Theaters

Let's Sit down and See the Movies

Come to the Movies and Win a Sewing Machine

Kyoto Residents Go On Location



The Centennial of the "Movie Theater"

1995 marked the centennial of the motion pictures. This did not mean, however, that the motion pictures had existed for only one hundred years. Before 1895, all the technology and equipment required in movie production and projection had been in practical use. Then why was 1995 celebrated as the century mark? Simply because, one hundred years ago, movies were first shown much as they are today: projected on a screen in a public place for a paying audience. It is this 1895, when motion pictures were first presented in places later transformed into and known as "movie theaters," that is regarded as the birth year of the motion pictures.

Various works have discussed the history of the motion pictures, but whereas this history is broadly presented as the history of films, of filmmakers and film studios, or of cinematic technology, what serves as the essential point of our discussion has gone unexamined. This is the history of movie theaters, and their audiences, those who made the movie halls prosper. Most researchers have focused on the history of how and by whom films were made, yet much is unclear about the history of who showed films and in what kind of places, as well as how the audiences enjoyed movies. Perhaps the celebration of the centennial of the "movie theater" should mark the birth of an inquiry into the history of the movie hall and its audience.1

The present essay is a cultural history of a city and cinema, a case study of a cine-city, Kyoto, Japan, during the ten-year postwar period from 1947 to 1956. (The reason why the study focuses on these ten years will become clear in time.) In this period, Kyoto City, with its large film studios, such as Shochiku, Daiei, and Toei (Toyoko), and more than 60 movie theaters, was the capital of Japanese cinema in its golden age. In this small, fan-shaped region, where over a million residents crowded together, how did people enjoy films?

Why Do People Go to the Movies?

People go to movie theaters to see movies, but that is not the whole story. Although the shift has been rather gradual, the movie theater has ceased to be a place for only viewing films. When an audience goes to the cinema, they are often seeking something beyond the movie itself. Nowadays, for instance, while it is very unlikely that a movie theater would use words such as "fully air-conditioned" in its advertising, one must ask from what point in time such facilities were considered a matter of course.

On New Year's Day, 1950, a completely new kind of advertisement appeared for the first time in local history in the leading regional newspaper, the Kyoto Shinbun.: "Spend the New Year's in the warm Koraku Kaikan."2 This catch phrase, printed in characters larger than even the title of the movie, had a greater impact than the modestly written, "With heating facilities," offered by a rival theater, the Asahi Kaikan. As if offering testimony to that impact, on New Year's Day of the following year, 1951, the Asahi Kaikan also opted for the similar catch phrase -- "the warm Asahi Kaikan" -- in its advertisements.3 Then, in 1952, the two theaters ended up competing with almost the same New Year's advertising: "Do please come and enjoy your New Year in the warm Koraku Kaikan;" "Come to the well-heated Kyoto Asahi Kaikan for the New Year!"4 In the early 1950s, against the trend of other movie theaters, which focused their promotion on the appeal of their films, these two theaters, while screening films no less attractive than the ones shown elsewhere, stressed their heating facilities rather than the films themselves.

In a Kyoto Shinbun from August 1952, there was also an article entitled, "Paying Admission a Cheap Way to Escape the Heat."5 What are such advertisements or articles telling us? They imply that going to the movies is not merely for enjoying the film, but also for taking pleasure in the facilities beyond just the projection equipment. People go to movie theaters not only to drown themselves in the dream on the screen, but to escape the cold in winter and the heat in summer. While freeing audiences from reality on an imaginary level through incredible stories and spectacular visions, movie theaters also offered them refuge from the natural harshness outside the theater. In this way, Kyoto residents discovered in the cheap public space called the movie theater a means to soften the severe winters and summers of the Kyoto basin.

No doubt, the strategy of making heating and cooling facilities the strong point in movie theater advertising can be traced back to the prewar period, but then it was limited to only a very few big theaters in large cities.6 For this to become a common practice, as the next section will discuss in detail, had to wait until the early 1950s. Actually, on January 1st, 1950, Koraku Kaikan, located in downtown Kyoto, was able to take the lead among area theaters and flaunt its heating system precisely because it opened a mere two months previously as a truly "Modern Movie Theater" with the installation of the newest facilities.

For the people of Kyoto, 1950 was a year impossible to forget, and not merely for the new movie theaters heralded in New Year's Day advertising. Just as 1666 -- the year of the Fire of London and other calamities -- was called "annus mirabilis" in England, so 1950 could be called "annus mirabilis" for the citizens of Kyoto. In this year, the city was attacked by three great fires and lost three irreplaceable pieces of its cultural history: the Shochiku Shimogamo Studio, Kyoto Station and Kinkakuji Temple. For all the movie theaters built in Kyoto City, these three fires have endured as historic lessons in fire prevention.

The movie theaters, new look created by heating and cooling facilities, however, was not the sudden realization of a new desire among postwar audiences. The emergence of the fully climate-controlled movie theater was long a wish of movie-goers as well as a task confronting the theater management. Actually in 1919 suggestions like the following appeared concerning movie theater facilities:

Beyond their usual function of admitting natural light, windows should also serve to provide a hygienic environment and pleasant atmosphere. In addition, the installation of the kind of large ventilators used in other countries is recommended. In a delightful instance of this, one theater has installed an Ishizuka style ozone generator.

Because summer is sultry, we often say it is not a time for activity. That kind of stuffiness and heat is hard on cinema-going. In order to alleviate this, it is believed that movie theaters should add more fans and keep them working without break, and it might also be nice to put some flower-embedded blocks of ice around.

In winter time, steam from around or under the seats is a must. Although in Japan, it is available only in big theaters, we should expect the ordinary movie houses to follow suit.7

The first movie theater in the world equipped with air-conditioners was Balaban & Katz's Central Park Theater in Chicago, which opened in 1917. But why was it that Chicago took this initial step? A city famous for its beastly summers, Chicago at that time was at the forefront of the meat industry in the United States. To prevent spoilage, there were countless cold storage houses in the city, which eventually led to the birth, in Chicago, of the world's first air-conditioned theater.8 (This is an excellent example of a movie theater acting as a function of a city.) On the other hand, two years after the world's first air-conditioned movie theater appeared, the cooling facilities in a standard movie house in Japan, as noted previously, remained limited to the use of fans. The day the ordinary Japanese movie-goer could assert, "Paying Admission [Is] a Cheap Way to Escape the Heat" was still more than thirty years away.

Such an assertion by a local newspaper about inexpensive ways to cool off indicates that, for area movie theater managers, heating and cooling facilities had become a major investment for attracting audiences. At the same time, concern about ventilation systems in theaters was growing. In May 1952, the Kyoto Shinbun printed the result of an investigation by the Department of Public Health, reporting favorably that the air inside the model movie theaters in the shopping areas on Shinkyogoku Street "is even cleaner than it is outside the theaters."9 Echoing the lament from 1919, this article reflected on the movie theaters' long general neglect of their ventilation. In November of the same year, the Kyoto Shinbun printed the result of another investigation by the Department of Public Health stating that in eleven theaters in the city, foul smells drifted into audience seating from the rest rooms, and urging the management to put itself in the audience's position and improve the environment for movie viewing.10 At the end of 1954, an article entitled "Requests to the Movie Theaters" called for improvements on backless chairs, poor quality sound systems, and still insufficient ventilation.11

Thus the push for investment in climate-control systems in movie theaters, spurred by government pressure and the power of public opinion raised by the local paper, had grown stronger by the year. When the Saiin Movie Theater opened in August 1956, the marvelous advertising line, "The Best Movie Theater in Kyoto! Complete Perfumed Air-Conditioning!," indicated that not only temperature control and ventilation but even the fragrance in the theater had been taken into consideration.12 From the beginning of the 1950s, the movie theaters in the city of Kyoto had set the stage for the golden age of Japanese cinema through their commitment to more comfortable viewing conditions for the audience.

In established motion picture history, the history of the physical aspects of movie theaters is neither accurately nor adequately described, and no effort has been made to measure the changes in these conditions or the way in which the desires of the audience were articulated in discourse by the theaters. This essay will focus on the methods movie theaters used to mobilize audiences through changes in the theater facilities, screening methods, and advertising strategies or organization of discourse, and at the same time analyze how city residents experienced the movies.

The Birth of the Modern Movie Theaters

By the early 1950s demand for the improvement and enlargement of movie theater facilities had risen not only in Kyoto but nationwide. Reflecting this trend, Kinema Junpo, the leading film magazine in Japan, published a series of articles in 1951 promoting the birth of "Modern Movie Theaters" in the midst of the continuing rush of new theater construction during the postwar recovery period. Worth mentioning are two articles entitled, respectively, "Trends of and Suggestions for Modern Movie Theaters,"13 published in three parts, and "The Management and Policies of the Ginza Coney Theater."14 The former, from an architect's perspective, pointed out specifically how "movie theaters in our countryEEElack scientific rationality, neglect architectural principles, and fail to serve the needs of the audience,"15 and primarily in terms of architectural structure, offered suggestions for appropriate improvements for a "modern movie theater." Meanwhile, the latter, which won the top award in a readers' essay competition, concerned the management of movie theaters. The essay developed a precise simulation of running an imaginary "Ginza Coney Theater," discussed how this ideal movie theater would serve its audience, and detailed ideal facilities, services, publicity and program organization. These two essays both take audience's perspective in describing in detail what spectators desired and expected from a movie theater. For this reason, they share in common extremely effective suggestions and observations for theater managers.

It was at the beginning of the 1950s that a film magazine like Kinema Junpo devoted its pages to audience perceptions of the ideal movie theater. But why at the beginning of the 1950s? The legal reason is clear: the construction of new movie theaters and the remodeling of existing ones was facilitated by the lifting in May 1950 of restrictions in construction laws, opening up a new age in audience service. In the following year, 1951, Nikkatsu, one of the Big Five film companies in Japan reported proudly that it had installed heating and cooling facilities nationwide in all major urban theaters under its direct management.16 And even Nissei Industrial, Inc., of Osaka, instead of advertising about the company itself, referred to heating/cooling and ventilation equipment as the two basic "prerequisites of the modern movie theater" when it sought installation contracts .17

But what is more interesting is the difference between the ideal "modern theater" proposed by the two illuminating essays in Kinema Junpo and the movie theaters that were merely physically well-equipped with the facilities "prerequisite" to be a modern movie theater. The difference lies in the fact that the heating and cooling and various other facilities, such as waiting rooms, tea rooms and public phones, were regarded as matters of course in the essays. In the end, it was the theater's atmosphere as a whole that was valued above these new practical additions. The essays state that "the fully inclusive facilities" should be "clean and easy to use, providing a leisurely and pleasant atmosphere,"18 and that some of them, "even if not used," were essential in "creating a romantic atmosphere for the audience."19 "A theater's own uniqueness is as important in attracting an audience as the movies it shows." Because, the essays explained, "being so attached to the atmosphere, the audience cannot but go to that theater."20 This was the ideal image of the "modern movie theater."

Here the movie theater, serving up a dream called the movies, was required to accommodate the time the audience spent within the dream, and to create an environment suited to, literally, dream viewing. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the various modern facilities were the means for realizing that romantic dream. For as long as the audience was provided with "romantic feelings," the facilities in part achieved their original purpose "even if not used." The ideal "modern movie theater," as it assembled the best in modern facilities, also had to take great pains to accommodate such intangibles as atmosphere or mood.

The image of the perfect "modern movie theater" was also echoed vividly in the advertising copy for completed new theaters. An advertisement in the newspaper for the new "modern movie theater" Kyogoku Toho at the end of 1954, three years after the afore mentioned two essays appeared in the leading film magazine, described it as "a great theater, where one can enjoy watching in a wonderful atmosphere," and emphasized, as a matter of course, not only its "complete heating facilities" and "the newest projection machines and sound system," but also "the modern sense in its appearance," claiming it as "the ideal place to relax that puts its heart into every corner."[Italics mine]21 Such a theater, where "one can enjoy watching in a wonderful atmosphere," is just the kind proposed by the essay "Trends of and Suggestions for the Modern Movie Theater." It is the ideal image of the "modern movie theater" that had preconditioned this advertisement. And it is also the ideal image that the advertisement advocated in harmonizing the incongruous vocabularies of intangibles like "atmosphere," "sense," "put[ing] its heart into," with the newest material facilities. Whether or not the ideal was realized in the actual theaters, the assertions concerning the perfect "modern movie theater" were thus spread among ordinary people in Japan.

Let's Sit down and See the Movies

For management in the early 1950s, the "modern movie theater" boasting the newest facilities, a clean and comfortable viewing environment and, above all, a romantic atmosphere, required a huge capital investment.22 Before the boom in building "modern movie theaters," however, there had been two less expensive yet practical and effective service strategies in use.

One of them was a new seating system devised in 1947. The Asahi Kaikan, known as an excellent theater in Kyoto City, put a "notice" in the leading local newspaper announcing resolutely its determination "to carry out a capacity limit, single showing system beginning the 1st of May."23 It replaced the then current "stuffing system" (admitting as many seated and standing viewers as the space could hold) with an entirely new seating system, in which an audience limited to the seating capacity was let in and out between showings. But a mere month after its introduction, the new system was judged ahead of its time and inevitably abandoned: "'The capacity limit, single showing system' was initiated to provide leisurely and comfortable viewing for the audience, and won broad acclaim. However, there has been some slight dissatisfaction in that the time limitations inherent in the system do not at times suit our patrons' busy daily lives. Therefore, through our research, we have reached confidently a more advanced 'capacity audience exchange system, ' whereby the seating capacity is maintained with one-for-one substitutions of exiting patrons not limited to the breaks, realizing a second 'new ideal system.' By this 'new' method, a patron could find a seat whenever he or she arrives, and could see all scenes of the movie he or she has missed reagardless of when he or she came in."24

Although this "capacity audience exchange system" was a compromise between the often-criticized "stuffing system" and the premature "capacity limit, single showing system," it was regarded as a new system on its own responding to the demands of the age. The "stuffing system" was born of the postwar situation, when the number of movie theaters was entirely insufficient to accommodate the viewing population. At that time an audience would feel satisfied as long as they could see the movie. They would even rather stand and see the movie in a hastily-made "barrack-like" movie house than wait in long lines outside.25 Then, as the total number of movie theaters in the country surged from about eight hundred and fifty immediately after World War II, to two thousand one hundred by the end of 1947, more than doubling in about two years,26 space for improvement in the "stuffing system" gradually emerged.

On the other hand, the introduction and then abolition of the "capacity limit, single showing system" showed how sensitive the Asahi Kaikan was in reflecting the desires of its audience. Both that system and the capacity audience exchange system were based on a reconsideration of the audience's lot, standing and viewing in a packed house, and thus evinced the will of the management to allow viewers to sit down and enjoy the movies. In this period of change from the "stuffing system" to the "ideal new systems," the Yasaka Grand Theater also experimented with a "reserved seat system." A "pride in progress," similar to that of the Asahi Kaikan, can be easily gathered from its advertisement in a local newspaper. The theater listed five service items, including one where "companions can reserve seats next to each other," as the reasons why its "reserved seat exchange system has won high praises," and then concluded: "For the above reasons, the Yasaka Grand Theater, the only first-run theater in Kyoto, has become a public institution indispensable to a million citizens."27 This privately-owned movie theater, embracing a pride sufficient to call itself "a public institution," indicated a determination for reformation entirely new to its time.

In June 1948, when the Asahi Kaikan began to function as a "first-run theater," the seating system was changed a third time. As in the Yasaka Grand Theater, the "capacity audience exchange system" was replaced by an "all reserved-seat system." Both the Asahi Kaikan and the Yasaka Grand Theater, as upscale "first-run theaters," were able to attempt such repeated reforms in their seating systems because they aimed to distinguish themselves from other houses, and by the very nature of their locations were ever fated to do so. In contrast with the dozen or more rival movie theaters lined-up side by side on Shinkyogoku Street and nearby streets, the Asahi Kaikan and the Yasaka Grand Theater were situated outside that movie area in Kyoto. Since both were large-scale theaters with seating capacities of over a thousand, they had to plan their management strategies with great care. By the spring of 1947, movie audiences in Kyoto were able to sit and relax at the movies whenever they liked to, as long as they didn't mind the somewhat higher admission.28 And this was a completely new film experience to the local residents.

Come to the Movies and Win a Sewing Machine

The changes in the seating system discussed above were the first of the much cheaper (in comparison with remodeling and upgrading facilities for the sake of becoming "modern movie theaters") yet effective methods for attracting audiences. The second sought to arouse the patrons' gambling spirit. Since the First Kangyo Bank offered the first public lottery in October 1945, people's desire to try their luck had risen year by year. Movie theaters in Kyoto joined the competition and began to offer "lucky cards" and prizes to entice audiences. The Yasaka Grand Theater, one of the earliest of such theaters, merits a further look here. This first-run theater announced in a Kyoto Shinbun that it was presenting "lucky cards" to advance ticket buyers in November 1948 (winners would receive free admission to a future movie) . In July 1949, holders of the "lucky cards" could win an "Island Tour of Lake Biwa," an excellent summering site in a neighboring prefecture.29 This romantic scheme, called "Avec Service," was so successful that the Yasaka Grand Theater sought every opportunity to promote the "service" in newspapers. As a result, it was even reported that "maybe it is because of the pleasant atmosphere along Gion's Hanami Lane that the 'avec' couples constitute the greater half of the audience in the lofty castle-like theater [Yasaka Grand Theater]."30

In the same theater in January 1950, at a special admission-paid preview of Little Women (Mervyn LeRoy, 1949), the following attractions were offered: free admission for groups of four sisters; "lady's lucky cards" for female patrons, with a sewing machine as the first prize and fabric for western style clothes as the second prize; as well as scholarships for winners of an essay competition for female high school students.31 During this period, the promotions offering sewing machines as prizes were common among other movie theaters, too, which reflected the sewing boom at that time. Many movie theaters in Kyoto, before attempting to improve their facilities, endeavored to plan promotions in accordance with the content of the movies then playing, and offer appropriate prizes to hook their audience.

This method of attracting viewers by arousing their gambling instincts, together with various tie-in schemes, reached its peak in 1951. Let's take some of the local newspaper advertisements of the time as examples:

October 1950: During the celebration of its first anniversary, the Koraku Kaikan presented medicine for colds and headaches or bars of soap to the first two thousand patrons daily.32

March 1951: During the first run of Wagaya wa Tanoshi ( Home, Sweet Home), the movie theaters run by the Shochiku Film Company, such as the Shinkyogoku Shochikuza, the Nishijin Showakan, and the Shichijo Omiya Takaraza, offered thirty thousand yen in cash as the top lottery prize, and a thousand-yen fixed deposit account at Chiyoda Bank as second prize. Patrons wrote down their names and addresses on empty boxes of Morinaga Milk Caramels and put them in ballot boxes in the theaters. Morinaga's new product, Milk Caramels were quite popular at the time, but why was the movie promotion tied in with Morinaga Foods Inc., and why was there a thirty thousand yen cash prize for the lottery? "In the movie, the hero [played by Ryu Chishu], who works for Morinaga, had 30000 yen stolen. For this reason, the company is offering thirty thousand yen as a lucky present to the fans of Shochiku."33 This is a rare example of the production, publicity and story of a movie working together perfectly.

March 1951: The Kyogeki movie theater started selling advance tickets with "lucky cards" attached.34

April 1951: The Yasaka Grand Theater presented "avec lucky cards." One in ten "avec" movie-goers could win a "lucky card" and free admission to the next movie.35

May 1951: When the movie theater Kikuei released Berlin Express (Jacques Tourneur, 1948), "everyday, the first two hundred patrons receive Niko Niko Brand Biscuits" as "gifts for their children."36

June 1951: At the Koraku Kaikan, "Come to the movies and win 100000 yen! For details see the ads outside or inside the theater."37

From 1951 on, the prize boom began to fade out gradually with the rising wave of "modernization" in movie theaters. Theaters tried to mobilize audiences, as discussed above, by means other than movies themselves. The same logic later justified the "modernization" of the movie halls. For with the deluge at that time of vastly similar movies, even if movie theaters tried to mobilize audiences according to the merits of their films, they found these merits difficult to convey in newspaper advertisements.

Kyoto Residents Go On Location

We have discussed a number of advertisements and articles on motion pictures in the Kyoto Shinbun, the leading area newspaper. Finally, we need to take a look at the skillful cooperation between the two local enterprises: the press and the motion pictures. During the period from the end of the war to the mid-1950s, roughly the range of this research, television networks in Japan were not yet operating effectively. Under these circumstances, the press functioned profoundly to disseminate information to the public, while the film industry, yet unchallenged by the television, was enjoying an unassailable position as king of the mass entertainment business. At the dawn of the rise of the television industry, the relationship between the press and motion picture giants was much closer than it is today. Indeed the Kyoto Shinbun Publishing Company opened a three-hundred-seat newsreel theater called the Empire News Hall in 1953, and showed a wide-range of newsreels from home and abroad. This section will discuss the possibilities through which residents of Kyoto could make use of the information services of the local paper. How then, exactly, did the residents of Kyoto, as readers of the local newspaper and patrons of the movies produced by the area film studios, actually use and enjoy these two central information/entertainment sources?

The daily Kyoto Shinbun provided residents with everyday information about the city. The local newspaper would tell its readers accurately what happened yesterday and what was happening today, where the readers lived their lives. Without such information on the city, it would have been difficult for locals to maintain a grasp on their own town. As opposed to a rural community, where most essential information was acquired through almanacs, inherited knowledge and oral communications, in a city, management of the residents' daily social schedule would be undertaken by the local paper. When a city dweller decided to go to the movies, he or she would likely first open such a newspaper. In that era, the local paper was practically the sole medium offering comprehensive movie information like starting times, theaters, and current runs. Neither the traditional almanacs and customary knowledge, which were adequate for major community events, nor oral information from neighbors were of help to city movie-goers. In the 1950s, the readers of the local newspaper were primarily the residents of the city where the paper was produced and distributed. Regular subscribers, taking their information from the paper, went to area movie theaters to see locally-produced movies -- this would be the standard image of the Kyoto native. City residents were, therefore, those who, engaged in some manufacturing or service work, spent part of that income on the consumption of information (the newspaper) and entertainment (motion pictures) both produced in the city. In this way, the residents' sense of belonging to the city was strengthened in the meeting of production and consumption in the cultural/industrial cycle.

Notable within the cultural cycle of the city was the existence of a small column entitled "Today's Locations" which appeared at least once a week in the Kyoto Shinbun for two years between the summer of 1954 and autumn 1956. In this column, in additon to the enticing titles of films in production, the times, dates and places for their location shoots were all laid out. Furthermore, since weather was a controlling factor in location shooting, forecasts of sun, clouds or rain, and the respective alternative plans were all noted in detail. Amazingly regular readers of the Kyoto Shinbun were informed with accuracy of what was being shot when and where amid their streets and temples, as if they were members of the film crew. Nowadays, location schedules are principally kept secret from non-participants, but in the mid-1950s, this was the information available to any reader of the local newspaper . For example, the location for the movie entitled Bikkuri 53 Tsugi (A Surprising Trip Through 53 Stations; Nomura unit, Shochiku) on July 3, 1954, beginning at 9 am, was scheduled for Yamanakagoe and Mt. Kujo if clear; and Tamamizu and Shimogamo Shrine if cloudy. On July 6, again starting at 9 am, Ninnaji Temple if clear, and Kuze and Tamagawa in case of rain. From July 2, the first day of shooting, to July 21, the final day of the shooting, the film's location schedule appeared in the newspaper nearly everyday.

Shrines and temples, like the Shimogamo Shrine and Ninnaji Temple mentioned above, have been used as locations for jidaigeki, historical dramas set in the feudal period, since the dawn of the Japanese film industry. Owing to the systematic information laid out in the local newspaper, the old shrines and temples, almost synonymous with Kyoto, the old capital of Japan, became places not only for the dead or tourists, but for the living, local residents to use in reviving and developing a new sense of value in their city. Kyoto, with the participation of its citizens who went to see the location shooting of jidaigeki, a genre unique to Japanese cinema, rediscovered its accumulated history in the incredible imaginary space called the motion pictures.38 For this reason we should avoid regarding a small column like "Today's Locations" as a mere promotion for new movies in production. We should take it as a significant event in 1954 whereby Kyoto discovered in itself the potential to be the cinema capital in Japan. Indeed the honeymoon between the leading local newspaper, area film studios and locals created the cinema capital Kyoto. However, Kyoto's self-discovery as a cine-city was also to some extent stimulated by foreign influences. In 1954, the year "Today's Locations" first appeared, the movie Jigokumon (Gate of Hell, Kinugasa Teinosuke) produced by Daiei Kyoto won the grand prix at the Cannes Inernational Film Festival, and in the same year, Sanshodayu (Sansho the Bailiff, Mizoguchi Kenji) won the Silver Lion Award at the Venice International Film Festival.

Thanks to the information in "Today's Locations," the residents of Kyoto, not as mere movie-goers but as pseudo- members of a support crew on location, could participate in film production and enjoy the fantasy of the motion pictures in a way only locals could. Although when visiting locations, people would not be asked to be anything but onlookers, what they saw on the site -- cranes moving before their eyes, tracks set down in the blink of an eye, and exciting samurais in their chonmages (the traditional topknot hairstyle for samurai) -- transformed everything ordinary into dazzling spectacle, and undoubtedly allowed the people to feel that the streets in which they lived were that cinematic, dissimilated space. The fact that the local newspaper of that time provided its readers with not only the screening schedules but even the shooting schedules of new movies, gives proof to the unity between the local paper and the area film studios, and their attempts to rediscover Kyoto as the capital of Japanese cinema. It also does attest to the prosperity of Japanese cinema in the 1950s.


1 For research on the history of Japanese motion picutre houses and audiences, see Hase Masato's "Ken-etsu no Tanjo: Taishoki no Keisatsu to Katsudoshashin (Birth of Censorship: Police and Motion Pictures During the Taisho Period)" (Eizogaku, no.53), which examines the oppressive police censorship towards audiences enjoying the movies.

2 Kyoto Shinbun, January 1, 1950.

3 Kyoto Shinbun, January 1, 1951. In fact, at this time, in the competition for audiences between the two movie theaters, the Asahi Kaikan was clearly in such an unfavorable position that it was reported that "it is very disappointing that audience is being lured away by the Koraku Kaikan." Yamamura Ken'ichi, "Zenkoku Eigakan Meguri: Kyoto (Movie Theaters in Japan: Kyoto)," in Eiga Sekai (March 15, 1951), p. 37.

4 Kyoto Shinbun, January 1, 1952.

5 Ibid., August 4, 1952.

6 On the overleaf of the front cover of Baraeti ( Variety ), October 1934 (vol. 1, no. 1), there was the following advertisement for the Nihon Gekijo in Yurakucho, Tokyo: "The best theater in the East. Capacity of 5000, with heating and cooling equipment, ventilation, etc. -- all the best of the newest scientific facilities."

7 Mori Iwao and Tomonari Yozo, Kenkyushiryo: Katsudoshashin Taikan II (Collections of Research Materials on Motion Pictures II: Japanese Film History Sketch) (Tokyo: Film Library Kyogikai, 1976), p.43.

8 Douglas Gomery, Shared Pleasures: A History of Movie Presentation in the United States (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), p.53.

9 Kyoto Shinbun, May 6, 1952.

10 Ibid., November 6, 1952.

11 Ibid., December 20, 1954.

12 Ibid., August 1, 1956. The fragrance inside the movie theater was also considered part of the service in the essay by Toba Kazuichi cited below: "Tie up with a perfume company, even if only on opening day, and spread perfume near the entrance and lobby," in Kinema Junpo (no. 1, August 1951), p. 50.

13 Hijikata Hisatoshi, "Trends of and Suggestions for Modern Movie Theaters," in Kinema Junpo (no. 1 and no. 2, September and no. 1, October 1951).

14 Toba Kazuichi, "Management and Policies of the Ginza Coney Theater," in Kinema Junpo (no. 1, August 1951).

15 Hijikata Hisatoshi, Kinema Junpo (no. 1, September 1951), p. 70.

16 Film Yearbook 1951 (Tokyo: Jijitsushinsha), p. 69.

17 Ibid., on advertising page.

18 Hijikata in Kinema Junpo (no. 2, September 1951), p. 53.

19 Toba, p. 49.

20 The same as Note 18.

21 Kyoto Shinbun, December 9, 1954.

22 In an example of the size of the investment in facilities inside and outside of movie theaters, in 1950, the movie theater Kyoeikan in Kanazawa City "spent three million yen on remodeling, including installation of a ventilator and a heating and cooling system, and seats were also increased from 300 to 500." In Kinema Junpo (no. 1, April 1950), p.100.

23 Kyoto Shinbun, April 28, 1947.

24 Ibid., June 8, 1947.

25 "Eigakai no Ugoki (Trends in the Film Industry)," in Kinema Junpo (no. 1, March 1948), p. 30.

26 Tokizane Shohei, "Tenki ni Tatsu Eigasangyo (The Film Industry at the Turning Point)," in Kinema Junpo (no. 2, February 1948), p. 22.

27 Kyoto Shinbun, April 29, 1947.

28 In September 1947, the admission fee was raised for the third time in a year. While other ordinary movie theaters charged 20 yen admission, the Asahi Kaikan and the Yasaka Grand Theater charged 25 yen and 30 yen respectively for each reserved seat ( Kyoto Shinbun, September 5, 1947).

29 Kyoto Shinbun, July 13, 1949.

30 Yamamura, p. 36.

31 Kyoto Shinbun, January 18, 1950.

32 Ibid., October 24, 1950.

33 Ibid., March 20, 1951.

34 Ibid., March 25, 1951.

35 Ibid., April 7, 1951.

36 Ibid., May 1, 1951.

37 Ibid., June 1, 1951.

38 For details, see Nakajima Sadao, Tsutsui Kiyotada, Kato Mikiro and Iwasaki Kenji, Eiga Roman Kiko (Kyoto, the cine-city) (Kyoto: Jinbunshoin, 1994).


The Comprehensive Archives of Kyoto Prefecture allowed me to make use of their microfilm of the Kyoto Shinbun. Ema Michio, Karitani Kyohei and Moriwaki Kiyotaka at the Kyoto Culture Museum gave me invaluable help with other materials. I would like to thank them for all their support. I also want to thank A. A. Gerow and Zhao Uming, who not only read the manuscript but corrected errors in it.

This research was supported in part by a generous Kyoto City Regional Research Grant. A slightly altered Japanese version of this paper was first published as " Eigakan to Kankyaku no Rekishi: Eigatoshi Kyoto no Sengo, " Eizogaku , no. 55 (1995) : 44-58.