Movie-going on the Margins: The Mascioli Film Circuit of Northeastern Ontario
Whitehead, Jessica Leonora
MetadataShow full item record
Northeastern Ontario film exhibitor Leo Mascioli was described as a picture pioneer, a business visionary, the boss of the Italians, a strikebreaker and even an enemy alien by the federal government of Canada. Despite these various descriptors, his lasting legacy is as the person who brought entertainment to the regions gold camps and built a movie theatre chain throughout the mining and resource communities of the area. The Porcupine Gold Rushthe longest sustained gold rush in North Americastarted in 1909, and one year later Mascioli began showing films in the back of his general store. Mascioli first came to the Porcupine Gold Camp as an agent for the mining companies in recruiting Italian labourers. He diversified his business interests by building hotels to house the workers, a general store to feed them, and finally theatres to entertain them. The Mascioli theatre chain, Northern Empire, was headquartered in Timmins and grew to include theatres from Kapuskasing to North Bay. His Italian connections, however, left him exposed to changes in world politics; he was arrested in 1940 and sent to an internment camp for enemy aliens during World War II. This dissertation examines cinema history from a local perspective. The cultural significance of the Northern Empire chain emerges from tracing its business history, from make-shift theatres to movie palaces, and the chains integration into the Hollywood-linked Famous Players Canadian national circuit. Masciolis unique links to Italy had always been his advantage in expanding business opportunities peripheral to the economic development of Canadian resource staples. The case of Mascioli presents a complicated dynamic between local and mass popular cultures, here intersecting with studies of Canadian culture and histories of the Italian immigrant diaspora. In bringing movie-going to the geographic margins of Canadas resource economy, he drew upon Italian ethnicity to consolidate a powerful position regionally, which ultimately left him exposed to interventions by government and big business.