Forgotten Material Histories of Repurposed Movie Theaters

Presentation by Veronica Paredes (University of Southern California).

This presentation will highlight one aspect of Marquee Survivals, an interactive, digital dissertation that explores contemporary conceptions of the repurposed movie theater.

Across the United States, movie theaters have been converted into a wide variety of establishments, including churches, swap meets, clothing and electronics stores. This project unravels how discussions surrounding these former movie houses racialize the spatial and historical perceptions of American popular media. Archiving representations of the Broadway Theater District in Downtown Los Angeles, Marquee Survivals charts how portrayals of South Broadway in Hollywood cinema conflate the street with its inhabitants and associate its non-white social histories with blight and decline.

As the city seeks to “revitalize” the area, local politicians, historians and cinephiles appeal to the street’s popularity before the 1940s as the basis of its cultural and historical value. In this presentation, I will discuss how user-generated online movie theater guides like “Cinema Treasures”1 use digital media to reproduce this bias by portraying the history of South Broadway nostalgically, sacrificing the complexity of the street’s transnational characteristics. In contrast, Marquee Survivals borrows methods from media archaeology to forge a new way of “demonstrating how the media’s past(s) lives on in the present,” (Huhtamo and Parikka 14) one that pivots on the topics of transnationalism, race and diaspora, in order to design a networked project that reaches outward toward other nations, other media experiences, and alternative modes of historical belonging.

Veronica Paredes is a doctoral candidate in the interdivisional graduate program Media Arts + Practice (iMAP), at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. She is a digital media scholar/ practitioner interested in marquees, race, dissociation, multiplicity, mediated temporality, and repurposed movie theaters. Veronica has worked as a research and teaching assistant at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy for several years. She is currently working on a digital dissertation project called Marquee Survivals: Racialized Urbanism in Cinema’s Recycled Spaces.

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  1. Pingback: Sorting Network Artifacts, Part 2 | Words in Space

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