Tag Archives: handbills

movie theater handbills


Playbill ephemera or what I refer to as handbills/programs/pamphlets/fliers (chirashi/チラシ) in the Makino Collection, are an interesting source for research on Japanese film.  They indicate what films were showing where and when, and may indicate cast and director/writer information. There is often a description of the film and advertisements. They enable scholars to find out what was popular at a certain time and location and the Makino Collection has a spectacular amount of these materials for both  the pre and postwar periods.

I recently added movie theater handbills/programs from China (including Manchuria) to the East Asian section of the Makino Collection (Series VII, box 609, 611, 634). These handbills from the 1940s are organized by city in Manchuria, with dates in Manchukuo calendar years (kōtoku/康徳), assuming that is what was written on the handbills. Cities include Hsinking/Xinjing/新京 (capital of Manchukuo), Dairen/Dalian/大連, and Tianjin/天津.  Some include tickets stubs which are kept with the handbill/program. Some have English, Japanese, and/or Chinese, and sometimes Russian text.  What do these ephemera have to contribute to our knowledge of the colonial period and Japanese Occupation?  Perhaps patrons of the Makino Collection will tell us in the future.

These handbills are a lovely addition to the more than 3,000 movie theater handbills from Japanese movie theaters that have already been processed in Series XII of the Collection (Boxes 124-139, 560, 612). The one below from Tokyo Eiga Gekijo has a ticket stub alongside it:

These are Musashino Weekly from 1925.

This set of handbills contains prewar fliers, pamphlets, programs, and weekly listings of film showings at movie theaters primarily during the prewar period. Also included with many of the programs are newspaper clippings or even ticket stubs for the particular film showings that appear in the programs. They are very well organized and we tried to include as much information as possible in the Excel file of holdings.  The first file contains early Meiji period handbills with some from the Taishō period (1920s) as organized by Mr. Makino. Files are then organized alphabetically by city, theater name, title (when known), and then number and date (This retains Mr. Makino’s organization by location and theater name). The majority of fliers are from theaters in Tokyo, more than 70 movie theaters in all. For these theaters, they are further organized alphabetically by location within the city of Tokyo: area of Tokyo, theater name, title, and then number and date. Some programs in this subseries are numbered and dated, while others are not numbered nor dated. The scope content/notes column includes the name of the film production company that managed the theater where known. In addition to the theater name, we have included the title of the publication, which means in some cases there are multiple folders per theater name.

Movie theater handbills can also be found in other parts of the Makino Collection. These include:
– handbills/programs distributed at multiple theaters and locations that were managed by the film production company Shōchiku.  They were were kept in 2 files by Mr. Makino (we have kept them together as well, also in Series XII).

– special film screening fliers/特別上映 and previews/試写会 (Series XII.14), which were kept in their original 2 file order.

– music fliers for films, and postwar fliers from the 1980s collected by Kobayashi Keizaburō/小林圭三郎 (kept in Series I.6: Director Files, Kobayashi).

– movie theater labor dispute materials/労働争議資料, documents which concern movie theater personnel, but are also related to the production companies (also in Series XII).

– handbills for news films/news reels in the Documentary Film section (Series VI.7)

– movie theater handbills for films promoted through G.H.Q.’s Central Motion Picture Exchange (CMPE), in the Occupation Period section. (Series VI.14.2, mainly from the late 1940s)

– prewar handbills advertising films from film companies including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Warner Brothers, United Artists, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, MGM, and others (Series VI.6.3: Distribution and Entertainment Industry, Show Distribution materials)

– newspaper handbills for late 1930s films that are handbills but found with newspapers (Series XVIII: Newspapers)

In addition to the items processed thus far, there are 26 boxes of unprocessed postwar film programs that remain in the Collection. These complement the prewar movie theater handbills and offer a different perspective on film viewership in Japan.  Some of these may contain fliers acquired along with the movie theater programs, which in the postwar are programs that were purchased by patrons rather than freely distributed by the movie theaters, and are thus souvenirs.




Occupation Period Film Materials in the Makino Collection

I recently started organizing the postwar film materials in the Makino Collection.  I began with Occupation Period (GHQ period/General Headquarters) materials that include promotional materials (mainly movie theater programs) from the Central Motion Picture Exchange (CMPE), est. Nov. 1946 as an arm of the Civil Information and Education Section (CIE) of SCAP (Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers). In addition, there are entertainment newspapers, labor union newsletters, and programs (various formats of handbills) of American film showings in movie theaters throughout Japan.

These postwar movie theater handbills offer a nice comparison to the prewar movie theater handbills I have already processed in the Makino Collection. There are about 3,000 of the latter, all organized by location, movie theater name, and program title. Many were from the late 1920s and 1930s and can be found in Series 12, Movie Theater Handbills/Chirashi, circa 1870-1968 or for revues (non-film), see Series 13, Handbills/Chirashi for Shows and Revues, 1915-1947 of the still-in-process finding aid.  The GHQ period handbills reflect the heavy promotion of American cinema under the Occupation as part of the “democratization” of Japan and the late 1950s addition of European films to the Japanese film market.

This section also contains study-discussion guides from SCAP CIE.  But, it mostly contains film production company (film studio) newsletters and bulletins. These promotional materials were published by the film production companies, Shōchiku/松竹, Tōhō/東宝, Shin Tōhō/新東宝, Nikkatsu/日活, Tōei/東映, Daiei (Kyoto)/大映(京都), and Daiei (Tokyo)/大映東京. They report the news of the film studios during the late 1940s and 1950s.  Here, you will also find film workers’ union organ publications, including newsletters by the Japan Film and Theater Workers’ Union or Nihon Eiga Engeki Rōdō Kumiai/日本映画演劇労働組合, aka Nichieien.  The collection of writings from the 1970s and 1980s about the 1948 Tōhō labor strike, Tōhō sōgi kenkyū shiryō shū/東宝争議研究資料集, complement materials that can be found in Series 4, Studio Files, Subseries 4, Tōhō/東宝, Box 82.

There are some really interesting items in this section of early postwar materials, including an Oizumi Film Company Budget Report/太泉映画株式会社, which is a handwritten internal company document of the film studio that preceded Tōei/東映, dated March 1951. There are many film magazines and general magazines published during the Occupation period in the Collection that I will now start to process (more than 6 boxes worth).  The magazines include originals of the important Eiga no tomo/映画の友 (Friends of the Movies), which Hiroshi Kitamura in his very useful book on this period, Screening Enlightenment: Hollywood and the Cultural Reconstruction of Defeated Japan (NY: Cornell University Press, 2010) has described as “a popular magazine that specialized in Hollywood cinema during the early postwar era…This popular publication inspired young people to form a larger community of Hollywood fandom in defeated Japan” (p. 156). The postwar period saw a rebirth of publishing with many film-related and trade magazines circulating around the country.  I will next begin processing these magazines, some of which can be seen below.

Perhaps my most interesting find in this series is a diary and correspondence of  the Nichiei cameraman Taguchi Shūji/田口修治 who accompanied the military and was captured in the Philippines.  In his prison diary, written in late 1945 and the first half of 1946, Taguchi records his observations of the war crimes trials of Japanese military leaders in Manila, along with a description of his daily food consumption, and quotations from novels he was reading at the time.  Taguchi’s correspondence to the writer Kimura Sōju/木村荘十also describes his view of the war crimes trials.  As first-hand observation of the first of the war crimes trials from the Pacific War, this is fascinating material.  In particular, I am currently taken with Taguchi’s transcription (in English) of the poem by Samuel Ullman (1840-1924), a German-Jewish-American poet and activist in Birmingham, Alabama. “Youth,” which became popular poem in Japan in the early postwar, was beloved and quoted by General Douglas MacArthur (and portions of it were later used by Robert F. Kennedy in his “Day of Affirmation Address” in South Africa on June 6, 1966).  Taguchi records it in his diary on February 24, 1946. He may have heard it in a sermon by the prison chaplain (who Taguchi writes about on the page before he records the poem). I am not sure as Taguchi does not identify his source or the author of the poem.

Taguchi’s transcription of the Ullman poem, “Youth”

How to stay Young

Youth is not a time of life – it is a state of mind; it is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over love of ease. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear, and despair – these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.

Whether seventy or sixteen there is in every being’s heart the love of wonder, the sweet amazement at the stars and starlike things and thoughts, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what next, and the joy and the game of life.

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

So long as your heart receives message of beauty, cheer, courage, grandeur and power from the earth, from man and from the infinite, so long you are young.

When the wires are all down and all the central place of your hearts is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then you are grown old indeed and may God have mercy on your soul.