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What is Vaudeville and How Did the Film industry Impact It?

During the turn of the century, America would undergo many different changes as attractions and entertainment would quickly become prominent throughout major cities and states. As many community members sought to get out of their apartments and engage with others, Vaudeville acts would become incredibly popular. In fact, Vaudeville performances in many ways gave rise to the entertainment desires that have made motion pictures so desired today, but what is vaudeville and how did the film industry impact the Vaudeville entertainment industry?

What is Vaudeville Entertainment?

Vaudeville performances included a variety of in-person events such as actors, ventriloquists, dancers, comedians, singers and acrobats. Seemingly anyone that could engage an audience for more than a few minutes was capable of becoming a Vaudeville entertainer in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Vaudeville would actually become the most popular form of entertainment in major cities and in smaller towns through the 1920s as a result of the mass influx of performances that had swooped into American performance venues.

Every vaudeville performance would feature a dozen or more acts. They would begin with those that were of the lower end of the ratings or the “weakest” and would gradually work up to the most insane, exciting, or otherwise entertaining acts with shows spanning several hours at times. Performances would range from mildly talented to truly amazing and gifted with quirky, odd representations of talent mixed in between.

Vaudeville exposed spectators to culture and for many it was their first true engagement with the cultures of those outside their immediate communities. The Vaudeville acts introduced a variety of cultural elements to spectators representing heritage and displaying elements of unique entertainment that was like nothing else in the world at the time.

How Did the Film Industry Impact Vaudeville?

Video Production Camera

Vaudeville performances were popular through the early 1920 but once the motion picture started becoming popular, the idea of Vaudeville would soon fizzle out. In fact, the motion picture industry left a huge mark on Vaudeville. As silent movies were incorporated into theaters, fewer and fewer Vaudeville performances would take place. The animated physical comedy that so many had come to experience in Vaudeville would now be the focus of many silent films.

So how did the film industry impacte Vaudeville? The rise of motion pictures and animated films would quickly push Vaudeville acts out of theaters. Soon, the traditional Vaudeville entertainment that communities had come to know and love would be replaced with motion pictures. While some say that Vaudeville was behind the birth of the motion picture, others say that the motion picture is what killed the Vaudeville act.