The Gallery and the Private Box: Class and Gender in São Paulo Movie Theaters, 1917-33

Thursday, January 2, 2014: 1:40 PM
Council Room (Omni Shoreham)
Lena Suk, Emory University
When the Cine-teatro República opened its doors in São Paulo in 1921, it proclaimed to be “the traditional cinema of São Paulo elegance.” This was in contrast to the popular movie houses of the preceding decade, in which movies were just another cheap amusement. The appearance of grand cinemas like the Cine-teatro República however, signaled a new type of leisure establishment: opulent enough for the elite, respectable enough for women, and accessible in price to the middle and working classes. The diversity of audience members within these theaters provides a unique opportunity to study the interactions between people of varying gender, class, and social statuses. How did these movie-goers interact with or avoid each other? How did the built space of theaters impact the social practice of movie-going? While legislation demanded that theaters create separate spaces for respectable ladies or “senhoras,” tiered pricing structures and physical barriers separated women into different categories, demonstrating that only certain women were considered “senhoras.” The layering of sources like legislation, blueprints, and oral history reveals the extent to which one’s “place” in a movie theater defined one’s identity.