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American Showman

Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry, 1908–1935

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel (1882–1936) built an influential and prolific career as film exhibitor, stage producer, radio broadcaster, musical arranger, theater manager, war propagandist, and international celebrity. He helped engineer the integration of film, music, and live performance in silent film exhibition; scored early Fox Movietone films such as Sunrise (1927); pioneered the convergence of film, broadcasting, and music publishing and recording in the 1920s; and helped movies and moviegoing become the dominant form of mass entertainment between the world wars.

The first book devoted to Rothafel's multifaceted career, American Showman examines his role as the key purveyor of a new film exhibition aesthetic that appropriated legitimate theater, opera, ballet, and classical music to attract multi-class audiences. Roxy scored motion pictures, produced enormous stage shows, managed many of New York's most important movie houses, directed and/or edited propaganda films for the American war effort, produced short and feature-length films, exhibited foreign, documentary, independent, and avant-garde motion pictures, and expanded the conception of mainstream, commercial cinema. He was also one of the chief creators of the radio variety program, pioneering radio broadcasting, promotions, and tours.

The producers and promoters of distinct themes and styles, showmen like Roxy profoundly remade the moviegoing experience, turning the deluxe motion picture theater into a venue for exhibiting and producing live and recorded entertainment. Roxy's interest in media convergence also reflects a larger moment in which the entertainment industry began to create brands and franchises, exploit them through content release "events," and give rise to feature films, soundtracks, broadcasts, live performances, and related consumer products. Regularly cited as one of the twelve most important figures in the film and radio industries, Roxy was instrumental to the development of film exhibition and commercial broadcasting, musical accompaniment, and a new, convergent entertainment industry.

From Publishers Weekly

May 14, 2012 – Media scholar Melnick's (coauthor, Cinema Treasures) look at Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel showcases the "transformative moment" that ushered in the "beginning of the modern entertainment industry." Roxy was a German Jewish immigrant whose career at the dawn of the motion picture era took him from a tiny ad-hoc movie theatre in rural Pennsylvania to playing a pivotal role in creating Radio City Music Hall, as well as making the motion pictures and famed movie palaces of the early 20th century viable entertainment destinations. While by no means a light read (the notes and bibliography stretch over 100 pages), film buffs and media studies scholars will find Melnick's tome plenty informative. The author provides wonderful details about how Roxy embellished silent films by surrounding them with live orchestras and dancers, signaling that merely being a projectionist was no longer sufficient one had to curate, as Roxy did, an experience, complete with flowers, matrons, pages, and fountains. The book also provides valuable insight into Roxy's dynamic contemporary moment one characterized by world military strife, economic downturn, and a blossoming of technological innovation. Photos.

Customer Reviews


Wayyyyy to expensive!

American Showman
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  • $31.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Film
  • Published: May 01, 2012
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Seller: Perseus Books, LLC
  • Print Length: 576 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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