I had a quick look at the facts on the job of movie-house ticket seller that Lovecraft once had in Providence.
The Lovecraft scholarship:
“Brobst has confirmed that HPL [Lovecraft] worked briefly as a ticket agent in a movie theater in downtown Providence” (An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, pp.24-25)
“I asked Harry K. Brobst about the story, and he confirmed it, stating that Lovecraft admitted to him that he held such a job and saying that he actually liked it at the start but that it did not last very long [this was] in the early days of the [Great] depression, perhaps 1929-30.” (S.T. Joshi, A Dreamer and a Visionary, p.317).
“In this era [1900-1929] Providence was a great show town, and vaudeville, burlesque, summer stock [theater], and movies rivaled sports for the attention of the populace. The major entertainment houses — all built during this time — were the elegant, all-purpose Albee (1919) [...]; Fay’s Theater (1912), a popular vaudeville spot [...]; the Strand (1915) [...]; the Majestic (1917) [...]; and Loew’s State Theater (1928), a splendidly appointed movie house [...]. In addition to these, there were a half-dozen smaller, less glamorous entertainment houses in the central city.” (“The Age of Optimism: 1900-1929″, Providence City Archives website).
In 1921 there were… “five downtown Providence theatres: the Strand, the Emery, the Modern, Fays, and the Rialto” that showed the movie Chaplin’s The Kid (Gerald A. DeLuca).
Possible movie theaters in Providence in 1929:
MAJESTIC: 201 Washington Street, one of the leading first-run cinemas, wired for sound 1926, and “could seat 3,000″ — so they’d need a lot of ticket-takers.
STRAND: The Strand Theater was located directly behind Providence’s Biltmore Hotel. It opened 12th June 1915 as a movie theatre [...] Briefly known as the Paramount Theater in the 1930’s” (William Charles D’atri). Lovecraft liked the Biltmore Hotel architecture very much.
EMERY: Reopened 1926 on 79 Mathewson Street, “Completely refurnished, redecorated and re-established as a modern theatre, a marvel of the decorator’s art.”
VICTORY: aka Keith’s/Empire. 260 Westminster Street. Upmarket first-run movie theatre, renovated 1924.
RKO ALBEE: 320 Westminster Street, classy Hollywood movies, large and with luxurious decor.
FAYS: 60 Union Street at Fountain Street. Lively frequently changing mix of vaudeville and cinema, seems to have been an “all the family” theater.
CAPITOL: 569 Westminster, ill-fated, in a slow decline over the decades because just outside the downtown area.
MODERN: 440 Westminster Street, said to have specialised in “sensation” movies.
UPTOWN THEATRE: aka Columbus “[had] a long career as primarily a second-run [movie] house catering to a large adjacent ethnic Italian population in Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood.” Unlikely, once you’ve read “The Haunter of the Dark”.
BIJOU / EMPIRE: 368 Westminster Street, which until 1930 seems to have been a dubious dive … “In a 1996 Providence Journal article on old Providence theatres, writer Michael Janusonis wrote that “…the hoity toities referred to it as ‘the sinkhole of depravity’ or just ‘The Sink’”. It appears to have staged scantily-clad “musical revues” in the 1920s. Sometime in spring 1930 it became… “a second-run [movie] house and changed the name to the EMPIRE.” (Gerald A. DeLuca). “‘Cheri’ was one of the last musical revues to play the Bijou. That was in March 1930. Shortly after that Spitz [the owner] converted it into a second-run [movie] house and changed the name to the EMPIRE. It was under this title that the theatre operated until about six months ago  when it was shuttered for good.” (Boxoffice magazine, January 7, 1950, via Gerald A. DeLuca) Not to be confused with the movie theater at 260 Westminster Street.
So there you have it. Take your pick. My hunch would be he was at the BIJOU/EMPIRE. It was hiring at the right time around March/April 1930 after a rename and makeover, and when the weather meant that Lovecraft was inclined to venture forth from his usual winter hermitage. The venue’s previous very seedy reputation might have meant it needed both brand new ticket-takers, and a certain level of sober “class” behind the glass. On a map it looks like it was a fairly short walk from his home, a walk of perhaps a mile and half.
The Great Depression had started 29th October 1929, and Lovecraft was not inclined to commit himself to venture out in the cold weather of a Nov-March New England winter. So April 1930 seems the likely date for his cinema job. Because he left on a trip to Charleston, S.C. on 28th April 1930 (“Account of a Visit to Charleston, S.C.”). “Lovecraft’s travels for the spring-summer of 1930 began in late April.” (S.T. Joshi, A Dreamer and a Visionary, p.285). One wonders if the cinema job of a few weeks in the early spring of 1930 would have given him the funds, toward the end of the month, to pay for his ticket on the long Charleston trip?
Roger Brett, Temples of Illusion: The Golden Age of Theaters in an American City, Brett Theatrical, 1976. (A “detailed history of all the old downtown area theatres of Providence from 1871 to 1950.” 309 pages).
Flickr set of photographs of 450 Rhode Island theaters and movie houses.
A new short Publishers Weekly article on adapting Lovecraft for a graphic novel…
“I.N.J. Culbard’s graphic adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is his second, following 2012′s At the Mountains of Madness. Culbard walks us through the process of retelling Lovecraft, while still retaining the author’s trademark style and mood.”
A very thorough step-by-step tutorial on creating a faux Lovecraftian newspaper prop…
Dread Central reports…
“Dark Horse Comics Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie has announced a cool giveaway for attendees of this year’s H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. As the film festival will be held on Free Comic Day, Allie assembled a great creative team and personally edited a giveaway comic for the festival.”
Mona writes from Germany. She’s a student doing a Lovecraft fanzine for her semester project. She would like to…
“invite anybody interested in the project, who follows this blog, to send me anything you like related to the topic — at email@example.com As I’m a poor student I can’t afford to pay anybody, but everyone whose contribution is printed will get a zine as a reward.”
New details, in a major interview with Alan Moore, of Moore’s forthcoming graphic novel opus “Providence” starring Lovecraft circa 1918/9. He’s…
“going to be working not only from Lovecraft’s published fiction, and his poems, and his letters, but also from his biography… this is the most demanding research I’ve done easily since From Hell.” “We have been devilishly thorough in researching this.”
Sounds good. It sounds even better that it’s a substantive Watchman-scale story, in Moore’s words a proper “extended horror narrative” like Swamp Thing was. It’ll bring “Lovecraft’s monsters” into the real world of “Lovecraft’s locales” in New England in 1919 (but “there’s no Arkham in it, there’s no Innsmouth”) which seems to mean Providence and Athol, at least. Maybe also New York?
Given the setting and the date I’m guessing Moore might be using real historical elements such as:
* the Watch & Ward Society of Boston (local censors, anti-censorship being a cause close to Moore’s heart).
* the influenza epidemic of 1918/9 and the armed barricading of Brown University by troops during that time.
* the medical use of opium among Lovecraft’s amateur press colleagues during the influenza epidemic, their opium dreams. The flu especially targeted young adults.
* Moore’s also looking at “the gay culture of America 1919″. My guess would be that Moore has a gay man (possibly Hirschfeld?) from the famous 1919-era early gay subculture in Wiemar Germany arriving in New England on a lecture tour etc.
* the Boston Police Strike of 1919, which Lovecraft saw part of (although leftists historians seem to have magnified this, beyond its true impact at the time). Maybe also the Chicago race riots of 1919.
* the 1919 anarchist terrorist bombings in New York and elsewhere.
Moore also talks in the interview of Athol (where Lovecraft’s amateur colleague W. Paul Cook lived)…
“I’ve been accumulating a huge wedge of reference material relating to the town of Athol in Massachusetts. I know more about Athol than probably people living there do. We’ve got the entire history of the town, its current situation, maps from different periods – I am doing my best to make this absolutely authentic.”
I’ve just finished a very deep dissertation-length footnoted study of the very nearby Wilbraham (20 miles south of Athol) in relation to Lovecraft, so if Moore wants that then he’s welcome to it Anyone know how to get him a PDF?
I’m guessing that Moore might actually set his story climax some 10 miles south of Athol, in the villages now underwater because of the immense Quabbin Reservoir (the construction of which broke ground in 1928). The now-sunken land would certainly be a nice big blank canvas to devastate, at the climax of the story. And would explain why the government covered it with miles of water. Just my guess
So based on all this I might have the plot thus: Hirschfeld arrives from Germany to promote his new pro-gay film (the first ever made); he gets clampled down on by the Watch & Ward censors in New England; he turns to the leftists to get the film shown; thus he gets mixed up with valvepunk-style anarchist bio-terrorists (a front for secret cultists); he unwittingly helps to create an erotic sex virus (later covered up as the influenza, which is why everyone was very quiet about the epidemic afterwards); they test it on the highly repressed Lovecraft in combination with morphine etc… is the rest all Lovecraft’s erotic fever-dream, or was it real? The plot has a coda which comes full-circle back to censorship, with the infamous Nazi book-burnings of Hirschfeld’s vast library on sex.
(My past postings of other real Lovecraftian places can all be seen here).
Two illustrations by Rado Javor, which could be illustrations for Lovecraft’s story “The Street”…
There’s a release date for Ian Culbard’s graphic novel of Lovecraft’s Shadow Out of Time. In the UK it’s set for 16th May 2013, 128 pages from the UK’s SelfMadeHero.