Changes in communication technology gave presidents the opportunity to reach beyond immediate audiences, starting with voice recordings followed quickly by the advent of film.
Motion-picture newsreels were an important means of mass communication from the 1920s through the late 1940s. By the 1930s, some 85 million Americans attended one of 17,000 movie theaters each week. At most film screenings, these moviegoers saw newsreels--short subjects, updated twice a week--from five companies: Fox Movietone, News of the Day, Paramount, RKO-Pathé, and Universal.
The newsreel helped the film industry cement political connections with Washington. And it gave many Americans their first look at the "performance" of presidential speeches and addresses, projecting personality in a way that would become increasingly familiar through radio and television in the coming years.