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Film Screening Practices from the Late 1950s to Early 1960s: Stage Greetings and Live Performances

Sun Young PARK 1

1고려대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

At the height of Korean cinema in the late 1950s, a film was released. It skillfully combined the characteristics of musical dramas performed by Korean musical troupes and Hollywood musical comedies. Titled Hyperbolae of Youth, this film led the popularity of comedy films at a time when comedies were rare. One of the secrets to the success of the film was stage greetings and live performances by “beanpole” Yang Sǒkchǒn and “fatso” Yang Hun, two of popular actors from a musical troupe who also starred in the film. Hyperbolae of Youth was screened for nearly a whole year at first-run theaters and second-run theaters, accompanied by stage greetings. After the success of this film, many films employed this strategy as well and staged live performances at film screenings. This paper traces the history of stage greetings and live performances at film screenings back to the colonial period and examines the transformation of live performances staged in film theaters between 1957 and the early 1960s, when live performances reemerged at film screenings. Through this, this study hopes to show that film theaters in the late 1950s adapted to the demands of the audiences as well as to the changing internal and external conditions of the film industry, and became active platforms for creation, where new screening methods and performances were planned and put into practice. Live performances at film theaters began in the early days of film screenings. Early films, made up of short films and ultra-short films, were screened as part of “attractions,” consisting of melodramatic plays, variety shows, magic shows, vocal performances, and others. This was the standard practice at theaters prior to the emergence of feature films. Although these “attractions” became rare when film-only theaters appeared and feature-length films became the norm in theaters, they began to reappear as major spectacles in the theaters in the early 1940s. Stage greetings, which began in the Americas and European countries, and attractions, employed by Japanese films to dominate the Korean film market in the colonial period, became an important part of the theater experience. Then, during the liberation period and the Korean War, attractions were separated from films, since it was nearly impossible to produce and screen Korean films, and American films and plays distinguished the role of film theaters and stage theaters, In the late 1950s, however, stage greetings and live performances once again began to emerge as important programs at the theaters. The late 1950s was a time of reorganization and development for the Korean film industry. In 1954, the government implemented a tax-exemption policy for Korean films, as well as the reserved seating policy and film time-based admission policy. The number of Korean film productions soared, along with the size of the audience and the number of theaters. Moreover, many performers from musical troupes, which was at the peak of popular culture since the colonial period to the mid 1950s, moved into the film industry during this time. The mass culture market was becoming diversified and invigorated as the number of women’s theater companies, traditional Korean classical opera troupes, variety show troupes, and music bands increased rapidly. In line with these changes, films featuring popular stars from musical troupes once again gave a chance for the performers to go on stage through live performances at film screeings. These live performances were the product of composite public entertainment and a means to entice the audiences of musical dramas to films. Comedy actors who were the stars of live performances turned theaters into three dimensional spaces for entertainment as they crossed over among screen, stage, and reality. While theaters in the late 1950s underwent a process of reorganization around films, theaters in the early 1960s underwent a process in which stage performances redefined its territory. In the late 1950s, films experimented with and utilized the form of “attractions” by including various spectacles, including “stage greetings,” “live performances,” and “double feature of a film and an attraction show”; in the early 1960s, performances expanded their territory by using films as “attractions.” However, attractions and shows disappeared from theaters in the late 1961, as citizens’ halls were established exclusively for performance shows and theaters in Seoul quickly transform themselves into film theaters. Attractions and shows which were forced out of theaters in Seoul moved onto regional theaters, where they opened a new era of attraction shows for the next 10 years. In this process, theaters became a complex cultural space, where various forms of popular culture, its personnel, and repertoires intersected and contended, as well as an active platform for creation where such shows were planned and performed.

Citation status

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