Thirteen years ago, the famous short “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” was inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance. In case you have never encountered this particular film short, enjoy below:
This film short aired as a trailer, beginning in the 1950s, to influence audience members to go to the concession stand in the lobby. While my parents’ generation reminisces over the significance of this short in their childhood memories, I tend to look on the other side of history.
Before I jump into the purpose of these next two posts, I’d like to clarify that I love the animation and nostalgia factor of “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” and I do believe it is important to understanding our culture. In fact, I believe it’s key to understanding our culture today and well-deserving of the honour by the Library of Congress on a number of levels. In the 1950s, the film industry was scurrying to compete with television. One need only look at the I Love Lucy merchandise continually bought and sold in stores to see the impact of the television show and its continual success. Competing with Lucille Ball, is like competing against laughter and happiness — it’s tough meat to chew.
There was an upsurge of Cinemascope, Smell-O-Vision, and many other William Castle-eqsue gimmicks to prove the significance and relevance of a big screen experience over a tiny, at home affair with a television set and the Ricardos. Do critics and movie fans really tote Dial M for Murder (1954) as a 3D film today? Some do, but others just like to see Grace Kelly flounce around under the influence of the Master of Suspense. In other words, they were just gimmicks and oftentimes unsuccessful — quickly devised and rapidly forgotten.
Now, answer a question: if you watched the film short above, are you still singing it in the back of your head? The tune is catchy, memorable, and perfect for increasing interest in a commodity — capitalism at its finest. “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” utilized music to enhance a commodity outside of the filmic experience. The concession stand is an entity in itself to recreate the home experience while gaining extra cash flow. Popcorn, gum, chocolate bars? Gee whiz, Pop! Why did we ever stray from the movie theatres? The other gimmicks were trying to beat Lucy, but… Let’s All Go to the Lobby faced the reality that, perhaps, the content was not the issue. Nothing like a nice brainwashing to get audiences to pay more.
Does any of this sound familiar in terms of today? I’d like to analyze the influence of this short film on modern culture and delve into the future of movie theatres with platforms like YouTube and Netflix as competition.