Richard Abel’s essay, “The Middleman of the Movies: US Film Exchanges, 1915-1919,” in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, is now available on Taylor & Francis online
This essay argues that the US film rental exchange -- often neglected in cinema histories -- served as an essential link that ensured the efficient distribution of motion pictures, from production to exhibition. To support that argument, it offers a model of historiographical research by putting in play overlapping, multiple histories of the exchange and its operations.In the end, it offers a guided tour of several specific exchanges to explore the systematized work of their departments and classify their employees, many of which were young women engaged in film inspection and repair, tasks that were extremely dangerous and often paid a relatively low wage.