The Art of Selling Movies by John McElwee
GoodKnight Books, 2017; 304 pp
Reviewed by Charlie Riccardelli


John McElwee’s fascinating new book The Art of Selling Movies focuses on how theatre owners spent decades refining the ways in which they enticed viewers to the movies via local advertisements. Beginning in the silent era and working up to the 1960s, McElwee has selected many stunning and informative ads that appeared in newspapers throughout America that reflect the wants of audiences, changing political and social climates, and the ways in which theatres combatted the influences that other mediums had over the public, specifically television. Can you increase ticket sales to the new Tom Mix movie if you offer patrons the chance to win their own pony? How much can local advertisers get away with using sex to sell films to customers? While McElwee provides informative background to the ads, the images do much of the talking, though any reader will enjoy his brisk, witty descriptions in this glorious collection.