Historical sound-film presentation and the closed-curtain roadshow overture

Winters, Ben (2021). Historical sound-film presentation and the closed-curtain roadshow overture. In: Cenciarelli, Carlo ed. The Oxford Handbook of Cinematic Listening. Oxford Handbooks. Oxford University Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190853617.013.7


This chapter examines historical presentational practices of sound film and, specifically, the extra music added to roadshow versions of films between the 1930s and 1960s—including Gone with the Wind, West Side Story, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It argues that such added music—which included overtures, intermission, entr’acte, and exit music—when combined with controlled theatrical lighting and use of the curtain, might have prompted a number of different cinematic listening experiences among audiences. It suggests that an understanding of these historical presentational practices might call into question comfortable assumptions about the nature of sound-film ontology and the relationship between cinema as "Text" and cinema as "Event"—issues that resonate with the discourse surrounding historically informed performance (HIP) practice in musicology.

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