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The History of Film. Rooted in still photography - early to mid 1800s Considered 1 st actual photograph,1826 by French inventor Nicéphore Niépce. Origins of Motion Pictures. Early 1890s Simultaneous development: U.S. - Thomas Edison France - Lumiere Brothers (Auguste & Louis).

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The history of film

The History of Film

The history of film

Rooted in still photography - early to mid 1800s

Considered 1st actual photograph,1826

by French inventor Nicéphore Niépce

Origins of motion pictures
Origins of Motion Pictures

  • Early 1890s

  • Simultaneous development:

    • U.S. -Thomas Edison

    • France -Lumiere Brothers

      (Auguste & Louis)


  • 1891 Edison and W. K. L. Dickson invent


Individual viewing booths

With film projected at 48 fps

  • 1894, First Kinetoscope parlors

    • NYC

    • 5 cents = 20 – 60 seconds

The history of film


  • 1893 – Edison builds the “Black Maria” in West Orange, NJ

  • Attracted famous vaudeville acts / performances

  • Shoots over 200 short films in its first 8 years.


  • Louis and Auguste Lumiere’s photo factory

  • “Cinematographe”

    • Lightweight and mobile; doubled as a projector and developed film.

    • Creates global presence of film


  • Cinema begins!

    • Lumieres have 1st public screening on December 28, 1895 in Paris

    • 10 “Actualities” shown

Meant to portray actual life


  • Cinema begins!

    • Edison has first public screening – April, 1896

    • New York City Koster and Bial’s Music Hall

    • Several single shot films as part of variety program (singing, dancing, performance)

The earliest films up to 1902 03
The earliest filmsup to 1902-03

  • Primitive techniques

  • Usually just “showed a view”:

    • 1 angle

    • Stationary

    • generally less than 1 minute

Films after 1902 03
Films after 1902-03

  • Multiple shot productions

  • Fiction films and theatrical films begin

  • Types:

    • Trick films – film increased the power of illusion

    • Comedies – mostly nonsensical

    • Chases – mini-stories

Trick film – “The Golden Beetle”, 1907

Exhibition of new multiple shot films nickelodeons
Exhibition of new multiple shot films-- Nickelodeons --

  • Small (under 200 seat), family owned movie house.

  • They tended to have continuous daily showings of a few (three or four) short "feature" films.

  • These theatres attracted a wide clientele which included women and children.

Exhibition of new multiple shot films nickelodeons1
Exhibition of new multiple shot films-- Nickelodeons --

  • 1st Nickelodeon opened in Pittsburgh

    June 1905.

Entrance to the Harris nickelodeon

Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh, 1919

  • 8,000 American Nickelodeons by 1908.

  • The film industry evolved from the demands of these

  • small store front theatres.

Narrative story films early 1900s
Narrative “story” filmsearly 1900s

  • Classical or scenic moments from famous stories (the Bible, history, etc.)

  • 2 pioneers of new multiple shot films:

    • Georges Melies (France)

    • Edwin Porter (USA) – hired by Edison

Georges melies the cinemagician
Georges Melies“The Cinemagician”

  • Films characterized by:

    • “Special effects”

    • Fantasy

    • highly artificial sets

    • many shots, most scenes only one shot

    • dissolves

Georges melies most famous film
Georges Melies’--- most famous film ---

A Trip to the Moon (Le voyage dans la Lune) - 1902

Edwin porter
Edwin Porter

  • Thomas Edison hired him to make films

  • Porter is credited with establishing an editing language(with “Life of an American Fireman”, 1903)

    • Use of cross-cutting - to dramatize the action inside and outside of the house

    • Various angles and shots

    • Continuity of action introduced

Edwin porter his most famous film
Edwin Porter-- his most famous film --

“The Great Train Robbery”, 1903

  • Considered the first real movie with a plot, it used:

    • Multiple scenes, locations

    • Frequent cross-cutting, parallel stories

    • Pans and tilts

  • Other directors had presented multiple scenes sequentially before, but their films played like condensed versions of stage plays, The Great Train Robbery played like a movie

Major developments after 1907
Major developments after 1907

  • Shots were closer (within 9 ft.)

  • POV shots used

  • More cross-cutting

  • Use of intertitles

Screens with written dialogue

Between shots

Major developments after 1907 narrative storytelling techniques improved
Major developments after 1907Narrative (storytelling) techniques improved

David Wark(D. W.) Griffith

  • Was the narrative pioneer

  • Made first feature length films

  • Made more serious films

  • Used moving shots: dollies, tracking shots, etc.

D w griffith s most famous and controversial film
D. W. Griffith’s Most famous (and controversial) film

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

The three hour ten minute film,

based on The Clansman by

Thomas Dixon, deals with

The American Civil War and the

rise of the Ku Klux Klan during the


Birth of a nation trailer 1915
“Birth of a Nation”trailer, 1915

Considered to be technically sophisticated and ahead of its

time but extremely backward in ideas

Despite its controversial story, the film continues to get praise from film critics such as Roger Ebert, who said: "'The Birth of a Nation' is not a bad film because it argues for evil. Like Riefenstahl’s 'The Triumph of the Will,' it is a great film that argues for evil. To understand how it does so is to learn a great deal about film, and even something about evil. "

The history of film

Narrative feature length films, along with the popularity of movie theaters, brought about the Rise of Hollywood…and… the first “talkie” (film with sound):“The Jazz Singer”, 1927

The history of film

The Golden Age of Hollywood movie theaters, brought about the

  • 1927 and 1928 = beginning of Hollywood's Golden Age and the final steps in the establishment of studio system control of the American film business.

  • The success of 1927's The Jazz Singergave a big boost to the then midsized Warner Bros. studio. The following year saw the general introduction of sound throughout the industry.

The history of film

The Golden Age of Hollywood movie theaters, brought about the

Studio System = the practice of large motion picture studios:

  • producing movies on their own filmmaking lots

  • pursuing vertical integration -- ownership or control of distributors and movie theaters, guaranteeing additional sales of films through manipulative booking techniques.

The history of film

The Golden Age of Hollywood movie theaters, brought about the

  • During the Golden Age, only eight companies comprised the major studios in the Hollywood studio system. Of these eight, five were fully integrated, combining ownership of a production studio, distribution division, and theater chain:

  • Fox (later 20th Century-Fox),

  • Loew’s Incorporated (owner of America's largest theater chain and parent company to MGM),

  • Paramount Pictures

  • RKO, and

  • Warner Bros.

The history of film

The Golden Age of Hollywood movie theaters, brought about the

  • Film historians list a few reasons why many great movies emerged during this period:

    • Quantity! With so many movies being made, not every one had to be a big hit. A studio could gamble on a medium-budget film with a good script and relatively unknown actors.

    • In other cases, strong-willed directors battled the studios in order to achieve their artistic visions… this is less common nowadays, but helped produce many unique and interesting films for the time period.

Famous Movies: The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, It's a Wonderful Life, the original King Kong, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves…& many others!

The paramount case
“The Paramount Case” movie theaters, brought about the

This1948Supreme Court case ruled against these unfair distribution and exhibition practices (vertical integration) and ended the studio system, which gave those “Big 5” studios control of basically the entire film market… this brought about the end of the Golden Age.

The rise of tv 1950s
The Rise of TV movie theaters, brought about the -- 1950s --

Movie attendance peaked in 1946. There

several reasons why it has never reached

the same levels of attendance:

  • The invention and widespread ownership of televisions

  • The post-World War II era led to:

    • Suburbanization—suburbs sprouted up, making people less interested in traveling to the cities to see movies

    • The BabyBoom—more babies made many people more family-oriented

The rise of tv 1950s1
The Rise of TV movie theaters, brought about the -- 1950s

New ways to attract audiences:



A bigger, wrap-around

Screen in theaters

(similar to IMAX).


3 screens combined

to project a much bigger

Image = more expensive


a system that released odors during the projection of a film so that the viewer could "smell" what was happening in the movie. The process injected 30 different smells into a movie theater's seats when triggered by the film's soundtrack. Hilarious!

New hollywood
New Hollywood movie theaters, brought about the

Generally dated to the release of “Jaws” in 1975

  • New Hollywood characterized by the “Blockbuster Syndrome”– The Film industry is dominated by high cost, high stakes productions… studios generally fund movies that are sure to be successful. This leads to:

  • Sequels

  • High action / less dialogue movies

  • Movies easily translated into other languages (for overseas success)


New hollywood more characteristics
New Hollywood movie theaters, brought about the more characteristics:

Multi-plex theatres


Younger viewers


Less dialogue, more spectacle