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Published on Dec 4, 2011
The Nickelodeon (AE: nickel = 5¢-coin, Greek: Odeion = roofed over theatre) was a multi-purpose theater that was popular from about 1900 to 1914. Usually situated in converted storefronts, the Nickelodeon featured motion pictures, illustrated songs, slide shows and lectures. Nickelodeons were one of the two main exhibition venues for motion pictures, apart from Vaudeville theaters.
The name "Nickelodeon" was first used in 1888 by Austin's Nickelodeon, a dime museum located in Boston, Massachusetts. However, the term was popularized by Harry Davis and John P. Harris, who opened their small, storefront theatre with that name on Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 19, 1905.
Although it was not the first theater to show films, in 1919 a news article stated that it was the first theater in the world "devoted exclusively to exhibition of moving picture spectacles." Other well-known nickelodeon owners were the Skouras Brothers of St. Louis.
Though strong through the period between 1905 and 1913, Nickelodeon theaters would also face their downfall after the arrival of longer films and larger audiences. Box office attendance grew rapidly, necessitating larger auditoriums. Longer films caused ticket prices to double from five cents to ten cents. Nickelodeons declined with the advent of the feature film, and as cities grew and industry consolidation led to larger, more comfortable, and better-appointed movie theaters.