Some things never change. Even in this, the second century of movie-going as public spectacle, theater patrons still have to be formally reminded (over and over again) not to be inconsiderate cretins whose rude behavior and inconsiderate actions ruin the experience for those around them. Today, of course, the menace is cell phones. A century ago? Hats. No, seriously. In the silent movie era, some women wore huge, alarmingly feathery hats which might obscure even the rotund form of Fatty Arbuckle, while making more slender stars like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton entirely invisible. Men, too, thought nothing of leaving their wide-brimmed chapeaus on their heavily-lacquered scalps for hours at a time, even while attending motion pictures. But don’t mourn for cinema fans of the early 20th century. Theaters back then were looking out for their best interests, as proven by this delightful Imgur gallery of pre-movie slides from the silent movie era. “Madam,” one asks, “how would you like to sit behind the hat you are wearing?” Other movie theater no-nos depicted therein include smoking, loud talking, and even whistling. This was apparently enough of an issue to warrant a cautionary slide, as seen below:
And, just as today, theaters felt that patrons would pay greater heed to such messages if they were delivered in an entertaining fashion. Wouldn’t stubborn hat wearers of the world, for instance, be more inclined to remove their offending headwear if they saw the image of a cute couple lounging beneath a giant straw boater?
All this anti-hat propaganda makes one grateful that cosplay never caught on at screenings of Lincoln, since Honest Abe’s trademark stovepipe hat could have made for a miserable viewing experience for many unlucky customers. While such nagging messages may have an undercurrent of passive aggression, their sheer old-timey-ness nevertheless makes them delightful. These slides are quaint, sepia-toned reminders of a long gone, seemingly more innocent age. And if viewing such images can remind modern moviegoers not to be complete jackasses, so much the better.