What Was America’s Tenth Largest Industry in the Twenties?

A couple weeks ago I wrote that the fifth-largest industry in America in the Twenties was alcohol (Feb. 11 post). Guess what the tenth largest was?

The motion picture business. 

That surprised the hell out of me, because the industry seems to have still been in its early stages, but really, it had been around for about two decades, if you count nickelodeons.  When you consider not just the production of motion pictures but the thousands of movie theaters and musicians across the country involved in showing a film, the ranking seems more reasonable.  

How often do you go to the movies? (Watching at home doesn’t count.) I watch a lot of movies through Netflix and a few on television, but went to a movie theater just once in 2011.  In 1925, the number of movie tickets purchased in America during an average week was 100 million. That was with a population of 115 million. Compare that to today, with our population of 313 million, when the average number of tickets purchased is 25 million per week. That’s roughly three times as many people buying a quarter of the tickets. 

Why? Obviously, there are more alternatives today, with movies shown on television and movie rentals to watch at home, not to mention competition from the computer game industry. In addition, ticket prices have soared, making it difficult for a family to take the kids to a movie or the teenagers to afford a date.  

Published in: on March 17, 2012 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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