Striking Photos of Depression and WWII Era Movie Theaters and Posters


This fall, we’ve been perusing the newly-opened Yale archive of photos from the Great Depression and the World War II era. All the pictures were created by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OW) in order to document what life was like around the country.

The photos below look at movie theaters, audiences, and posters from the 1930s and ’40s, ranging from America’s most rural counties, dotted with migrant workers, to New York City and Washington, D.C.

Movie theater. Southside, Chicago, Illinois. Russell Lee, April 1941.

Advertisement for current movie in town. The child is a flood refugee from southeast Missouri, Westley, California. Dorothea Lange, April 1939.

Children looking at posters in front of movie, Saturday, Steele, Missouri. Russell Lee, August 1938.

“Black Fury” poster, a movie about a strike, Scotts Run, West Virginia. Ben Shahn, October 1935.

Church turned into a movie house, Woodville, Mississippi. Ben Shahn, October 1935.

Migratory fruit workers come to town on Saturday night for a free open air movie sponsored by the local merchants who remain open for business, Millburg, Michigan. John Vachon, July 1940.

Greenbelt, Maryland. Crowd coming out of a cooperative movie house on Saturday night. Marjory Collins, June 1942.

Abandoned stores and movie house. Zeigler, Illinois. Arthur Rothstein, January 1939.

Washington, D.C. Audience at the showing of the S.S. Normandie film “A Lady Fights Back” shown at the United Nations Club. J. Sherrel Lakey, December 1944.

New York, New York. Waiting to get into Radio City movie theater. John Collier, December 1941.