Saturday, May 10, 2008

Four anomalous spikes in history's breadbasket

Certain phenomena
in midwestern cinema viewing patterns are frequently used to suggest a given film's popularity or lack thereof amongst small town populations, when in fact very local (and occasionally unreported) incidents more directly contributed to such box office anomalies. A small constellation of such peculiarities is observed in Nebraska during the fifth decade of the twentieth century.

Dell Worth, 1956. The Sun's Shadow. A hybrid melodrama-noir, this film was slated to sweep rural areas, given its popularity in America's cities, yet box office reports suggest only a 3% attendance rate during the film's 6 week rental in Dell Worth. During this time, the town's malt shop (then known as Charlie's), its gas station, and the two-lane bowling alley all reported a 57% increase of business. A set of until-now mislaid newspaper clippings reveal that during this time, Union Street, the town's main thoroughfare, was partially closed for construction--adding a second lane--which re-routed traffic past the Rialto theater and instead in the general vicinity of the three other businesses that, for six weeks in their history, had lines going out their doors.

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