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Candid Photos of 1940s Moviegoers Offer a Striking Glimpse Into the Past

Weegee's infrared photography is as arresting now as it was back then.

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These days, you’re lucky if you can make it through two hours in a movie theater without 20 minutes of previews, your neighbor’s cellphone going off, or some bizarre attempt at immersion forcing you to sit in a vibrating seat. As exhibitors struggle to make the theatrical experience more special and worthy of your hard-earned dollars, take a moment to recall a much simpler time courtesy of some striking images taken by Weegee.

A photographer who captured the moviegoing experience way back in the 1940s by using infrared film and a filtered flashbulb, he took pictures of audience members at a New York theater paying various levels of attention to what was flickering before them on the screen. Some sit up in rapt attention, others fall asleep, and others still get as close as they can to their date.

Weegee made it his task to look closely at the ways we look, and in so doing forged a deeper understanding of our appetite to see what we aren’t supposed to,” observes the Timeline article that first published the photos. Find them all here and hope your next movie date is as whimsical as those on display here.

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