"Phantom of the Opera" and More in "The Reel Journal" from 1925

A magnificent new resource for film historians and researchers--or for anyone interested in learning about old movies and the history of the American film industry--is the website Issuu, specifically the collection of "Boxoffice" magazines hosted there. "Boxoffice" (which is still publishing) is a trade publication for movie distributors and exhibitors that dates back to the 1920s. The historical back issues, nearly all of which can be found and browsed at Issuu, are a wealth of information--an embarrassment of riches, really--for studying American film history.

The above issue of "The Reel Journal" (a predecessor of "Boxoffice"), from February 14, 1925, features this double-page advertisement for "The Phantom of the Opera," starring Lon Chaney, which was then in release from Universal Studios. Interestingly, the image featured in the ad does not include Chaney, perhaps because the actor--known as the "Man of 1000 Faces" for his elaborate make-up--was being kept under wraps in the film's publicity to preserve the impression his visage would make on viewers.

The old issues of "Boxoffice" available for view on Issuu represent a unprecedented level of access for such an historical resource. Although the Issuu interface (available for use by anyone to "publish" newsletters and the like) is somewhat clunky--there's no easy way to conduct searching, for example, and in the case of "Boxoffice" at least, poor indexing of the hundreds of issues available--it is possible to bookmark particular pages, create your own library of publications, and (as seen above) embed individual publications on your own webpage or blog. There are several options for navigating individual issues, although (again in the case of "Boxoffice" at least) image quality is rather poor.

The above issue of "The Reel Journal" can be navigated and explored fully. It's an amazing immersion in movie culture of past eras. In the future, I will likely post additional issues of "Boxoffice" and its predecessor publications, as I discover nuggets of information and images that I think warrant the treatment.

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