Movies for a Nickel! The Nickelodeon

Movies for a Nickel! The Nickelodeon
Florence Harding: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Two to three class periods


In the early years of the 20th century, a new medium was developed that would provide mass entertainment, the wide spread of ideas, and a powerful set of visual images to the public--the motion picture.  During the lifetime of Florence and Warren Harding, this medium saw its beginnings in the neighborhood movie theatre--the nickelodeon.


Students who participate in this activity will learn about the early history of the film industry, and consider the impact of movies on society ever since.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Access to books and other materials about film


1. Using the websites listed below, assign students to study various aspects of the early film industry, including (but not limited to):

  • the inventors and inventions that made movies possible
  • the early movie directors and actors
  • the topics of early films
  • the role of the nickelodeon in the daily life of the public
  • the nickelodeon as a precursor to the major movie theatres of the 1930s and 1940s
  • the changes in the movie industry that are apparent now

2.  Students assume roles as members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; given their research, it is their task to create a portfolio of early film to be placed in a time capsule and opened in the 22nd century.  A paper or PowerPoint version of the portfolio is possible.

3.  Categories for the portfolio should be determined by the students.  The portfolio can contain writing, pictures, drawings, and even--movie clips!

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended by extending the portfolio to include further history of film in the later decades of the 20th century.

Sources & Resources:



This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.