Made by the Movies
Managing Editor of Survey Graphic
BOY from a high-delinquency area in New York City was taken by one
of Prof. Frederic M. Thrasher's investigators to see Union Depot.
In one scene a violin case played a conspicuous part. When it was
opened and seen to be filled with packages of bank notes, the audience
gasped, but the boy was unmoved.
the matter?" asked the investigator. "Doesn't that money bother
expected a machine-gun," answered the boy.
machine-gun?" asked the investigator.
any picture that ain't got a machine-gun in it. They all got typewriters
(machine-guns) in them."
your favorite actor?"
the way he acts?"
"I eat it. You get some ideas from his actin'. You learn how
to pull off a job, how he bumps off a guy, an' a lotta tings."
IN his Mind in the Making, James Harvey Robinson wrote:
"There are four historical layers underlying
the minds of civilized menthe animal mind, the child mind,
the savage mind and the traditional civilized mind....Their hold
on us is really inexorable....We are all children at our most
That was written
twelve years ago but it might have been a preview of the four-year
study of the effects of the screen on American minds in the making,
initiated by the Motion Picture Research Council and made by the
Payne Fund through its Educational Research Committee of psychologists
and sociologists. The findings, to be published in ten volumes,
give one the feeling that Prof. W. W. Charters of Ohio State University
and his associates have reversed the projector and thrown on the
screen a series of life-size movies of the rows of boys and girls
who look on.
feature the great child audience; how often they "go to the
pictures"; what they see; what kind of life is portrayed
for them; how much of it they remember; how it affects their sleep,
habits, nerves; what goals it holds up; how it conditions behavior.
In a word, what we may expect of
children who are exposed to run-of-the-mill motion pictures every
From almost their beginning the movies have
been under attack from two sources: from parents who sensed that
their children were being injured by what they saw; from grown-ups
who felt that they were being gypped by commercial producers who
were using a form of art but using it on a basis of mass productionfilms
geared at that meanest of common denominators, the twelve year-old
mind in adults. Here at last we have the facts as to the children.
Picture Producers and Distributors of America claimed in good
times a weekly attendance of 115 million of whom, they said, 5
to 8 percent were children. Evenly spread, that was practically
one movie a week for every one of us. The Payne Research Committee
by counting, sampling, estimating and other accredited research
processes got a total possible audience of 105 millions, a national
weekly attendance of 77 millions of whom 36 percent were children
and adolescents. That is, a youngster sits in every third seat.
He chooses to sit there by himself, particularly
if he is a boy. At all ages one quarter of the boys prefer to
go without companions, sitting alone, daydreaming in the dark.
Up to the age of eight this average boy is accompanied by a parent
23 percent of the time; at the age of nine, 16 percent; at eleven,
10 percent. Children almost never leave before the show is over.
Indeed 25 percent of the boys and 22 percent of the girls stay
on for at least a part of the next showing.
In a study
of five-to-eight-year-olds the average attendance was found to
be twenty-two times a year. Another study, ages eight to nineteen,
gave a weekly attendance of 35,155 among 35,491 youngsters. The
yearly average for the girls in this large group was forty-six
shows; for the boys, fifty-seven; for the two combined, almost
precisely one a week. Fifty-two shows of three films each gave
them, on the average, 156 films a year.