In 1911, movies were gaining in popularity with all kinds of people. This created situations for grown men and little children to sit side by side in a darkened room, which probably didn’t happen very much before. Surely this is a reason to worry. A report “On the Condition of Moving Picture Shows in New York” was submitted to the Mayor. Superintendent Thomas D. Walsh described the matter this way:
“There is no objection to the moving-picture show as a means of entertainment. Properly conducted it is most instructive and entertaining. But the evil lies in the conditions under which so many are given — the dark room, filled with adults and children, absolutely without supervision, affording no protection against the evil-minded and depraved men who frequent such places and sit beside the innocent boys and girls without a question or suspicion until irreparable harm is done.
“The society last year prosecuted twenty-eight cases of crimes committed under these conditions and secured twenty convictions of men who lured children to their downfall. Numerous other cases of impairing the morals of children were prosecuted in the Court of Special Sessions.
The percentage of criminal cases arising from this evil has, during the first six months of 1911, leaped upward over 100 per cent. These figures are well to be considered by those who plead for moving pictures as only an innocent pastime.”
One proposed solution: leave the lights on.
A better proposed solution: encourage families to go to the movies together.
THE CAMPAIGN TO CURB THE MOVING PICTURE EVIL IN NEW YORK: Organized Efforts to Censor Exhibitions Which Under Existing Conditions Are Harmful. (PDF)
From July 2, 1911
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