restricted access “We proudly present … the picture they didn’t want you to see!”: Black Film Advertisements, 1946–1960

In the literature on race in classical Hollywood cinema, local cinematic spectatorship hosted through the Black neighborhood theater has remained underexplored, even though this presentation was an important immediate context for Black spectators on the ground. In this essay, I combine theories of spectatorship with primary research into local Black theater programming and advertising practice in the late 1940s and 1950s. I explore how Black-designated, final-run theater exhibitors modified and productively bastardized textual materials released by the studios, critically altering, through reworked advertisements and irreverent programming choices, the film colony’s stereotyped or trepidatious black story lines and creating a new set of viewing positions for Black spectators. These advertisements give a different view of Hollywood narratives of race in an era where public acceptance of racial integration was incomplete.