Tristan Hoare is delighted to present Movie Theaters by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, the result of a 15-year collaboration between the two French photographers which captures the former “cathedrals of cinema” of America. Shooting with a large format 4x5 camera using long exposures in dimly-lit auditoriums, the images are conceived as historical documents of what was once the Golden Era of the American movie-going experience.
Many of the theatres captured by Marchand and Meffre date from the Golden Age of American film (1910s to 30s) when the big film studios competed to build extravagant venues to entice and thrill their audiences. A night at the movies was a glamorous occasion where the buildings themselves became as much of a draw as the movie being screened. Following the stock market crash in 1929 and in the post-war era thereafter, multiplexes and shopping malls made these theatres redundant, inevitably causing them to fall into disrepair. Many were converted into a multitude of purposes ranging from churches, retail space, flea markets, bingo halls, discos, supermarkets, gymnasiums, or warehouses, and often with comical results! While some remain relatively unchanged, others clash with their newfound purpose, creating unexpected spaces which act as a fascinating documents of American History.
The exhibition presents the never-before exhibited Proctor’s Theater, Troy, NY (2012), taking the central place in the gallery’s first room. The works exhibited present examples of abandoned theatres with their curtains torn and seats shrouded in decades of dust, reused cinemas in disrepair, acting as bus depots or car workshops, and finally those that have been reused and refurbished, often hiding the grand vaulted ceilings and ornamental mouldings that once attracted visitors. The exhibition will also present a series of typologies of the exteriors of the grand movie palaces Marchand and Meffre ventured into.
Marchand and Meffre’s images represent some of the survivors of a century of industrial, aesthetic and social change, their continued existence prompting a sense of nostalgia for the golden age of American cinema which carried American values, ideas and entertainment across the world.
The exhibition is accompanied by Marchand and Meffre’s newly published book, Movie Theaters (Prestel, 2021), which has been in the making since the inception of the project 16 years ago. This bygone era of entertainment is captured in 260 coloured illustrations over 300 pages, presented in an oversized linen-bound hardcover format. This will be Marchand and Meffre’s 4th photobook which we are thrilled to be launching alongside the exhibition. The book will be on sale at the gallery during the exhibition.