In the 1940s and 50s, Weegee shot a considerable number of photographs in New York City's movie theaters. These photos contribute important insights on the history of cinema spectatorship in the form of visual arguments about the movie audience. This article places the images in dialogue with theories and histories of the disembodied spectator. It discusses the photographer's particular fascination with sleeping moviegoers. The sleepy filmgoer embodies simultaneously the model and counter-model of spectatorial attention. This figure focalizes a strand of theory that associates filmic reception with scattered, dispersive forms of attention that stray from aesthetic or disciplinary norms of absorption.

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Author notes

∗ I would like to thank Alex Nemerov for turning me onto Weegee's movie-audience photographs and Richard Meyer for sharing his knowledge of all things Weegee. Claartje van Dijk at the International Center of Photography provided kind assistance with image research. The photographic illustrations for this essay were obtained with the support of the Pauline Brown Fund for Advanced Research in American Art at Stanford.