Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
History of cinema
Origins of motion picture arts and sciences
Any overview of the history of cinema would be remiss to fail to at least mention a long history of literature, storytelling, narrative drama, art, mythology, puppetry, shadow play, cave paintings and perhaps even dreams. For the purposes of this article the history of cinema begins with formative technological and artistic developments and achievements that led to the modern art of movies.
About 2,500 years before the present - Mo-Ti a Chinese philosopher ponders the phenomenology of an upside down image of the outside world beaming through a small hole in the opposite wall in a darkened room.
1588 - Giovanni Battista Della Porta tips off artists to this trick.
Victorian cinema c.1860-1901
1861 - Henri DuMont patents an apparatus for "reproducing successive phases of motion", British Patent 1,457.
1872 - Eadweard Muybridge designs the zoopraxiscope. French astronomer Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen develops a camera with a revolving photographic plate that makes exposures at regular, automatic intervals.
1880 - Muybridge begins projecting his studies of figures in motion.
1882 - Etienne-Jules Marey, a French physiologist, makes a series of photographs of birds in flight. Hannibal Goodwin sells an idea to George Eastman, who markets it as "American film" : a roll of paper coated with emulsion.
1889 - William Friese Greene developed the first "moving pictures" on celluloid film, exposing 20 feet of film at Hyde Park, London. George Eastman improves on his paper roll film, substituting the paper with plastic.
1891 - Edison patents the Kinetoscopic camera invented by William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, which takes moving pictures on a strip of film (this was one of many inventions for which Edison claimed credit). A lighted box was used to view the pictures, the viewer was required to turned a handle to see the pictures "move". First called "arcade peepshows", these were to soon be known as nickelodeons. Fred Ott's Sneeze is the first Kinetographic film.
1893 - Edison Laboratories builds a film studio, in West Orange, New Jersey, dubbed the Black Maria. It was built on a turntable so the window could rotate toward the sun throughout the day, supplying natural light for the productions.
1894 - Louis Lumiere invents the cinematograph a single-unit camera, developer, and movie projector. Kinetoscopes, meanwhile, were popular and profitable. On January 7, W.K. Dickson receives a patent for motion picture film.
1895 - The Arrival of a Train premiered on a large screen December 28 at the Grand Cafe in Paris, France. Louis and his brother Auguste Lumiere also filmed Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory that year, while in the US Woodville Latham combined a Kinetoscope with a projecting device. People were avidly watching nickelodeons on Broadway in New York City.
1896 - Edison loses W. K. Dickson who joins with other inventors and investors to form the American Mutoscope Company. The company manufactured the mutoscope as a rival to the Kinetoscope and, like Edison, produced films for its invention. Expanding on the idea, American Mutoscope then developed the "biograph" which was a projector allowing films to be shown in theatres to a large audience rather than in single-user nickelodeons. Edison entered the competition for developmet of a large projector he called the Vitascope. This year also debuted the work of first female film director, Alice Guy-Blaché's The Cabbage Fairy. Vitascope Hall in New Orleans opened in June of this year.
1899 - With the success of the biograph, American Mutoscope changed its name to American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. In England Edward R. Turner and F. Marshall Lee create chronophotographic images through red, green and blue filters and project them with together with a three-lens projector.
The silent era
1902 - The Charles Urban Trading Company was founded by Charles Urban, an American, in England. The company produced original films and distributed films made by the Lumiere brothers and Georges Méliès throughout Europe. Méliès filmed a mock coronation of Edward VII and it was presented in theaters the same night as the actual ceremony. Léon Gaumont begins experimenting with the possibilities of sound on film.
1909 - Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon, (Le Voyage dans la Lune), premieres, the first science fiction film with extravagant special effects. George Albert Smith produced a processed two-color system using panchromatic stock in Brighton for the Charles Urban Trading Company, this was dubbed Kinemacolor. The first public presentation of Kinemacolor was in February in London, when a series of twenty short movies by the Natural Colour Kinematograph Company was shown at the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.
1914 - Charlie Chaplin charms audiences as "The Little Tramp." Vaudeville begins to suffer from this redirected audience for entertainment, but early films soon became a new venue for many stage performers.
While developments in color and sound were still in the experimental stage a strong demand for movies and, therefore, potential for profit, encouraged productions for commercial release.
The French model of commercial movie houses became the international model, and entrepreneurs scurried to build impressive movie houses across North America and Europe including theatres to seat up to 5,000 people.
1927 saw the introduction of some early zoom lenses. These were operated with a primitive hand crank. Optical lenses were not to be perfected for another 20 years.
With many technical obstacles overcome, film as entertainment begain to blossom as an art form in the 1920s, a decade hearalded by art deco and German expressionism. Rudolph Valentino and Charlie Chaplin rose to stardom in this era, which also saw the premier of the first Walt Disney cartoon. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences founded in 1927 with the first "Oscar" given in 1929. The popularity of Horror movies is traced to this era with Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Abel Gance's Napoleon was one movie presented on three screens simultaneously, a hallmark of epic filmmaking and film editing that was to presage large format film projection system such as the three-projector Cinerama system of later decades.
Sound technology, both recording and playback technology, was slow in development. The 1920s would be largely dominated by silent features, often musically accompanied by an in-house organist, pianist or orchestra. Theatres would be the single largest source of employment for musicians. By the latter half of the decade, new innovations in audio, syncronized sound in the form of Vitaphone, allowed theatrical release of The Jazz Singer (1927), featuring Al Jolson. 1928 saw Disney's Steamboat Willie, the first film with entirely post-produced dialogue, sound effects and score. The first all-out Hollywood musical, The Broadway Melody, came to theatres in 1929. The demand for musicians would dry up at the onset the depression.
1922 - The Motion Picture Producers and Distributers of America is created by Will H. Hays to serve as Hollywood's public relations firm. Hays would go on to dictate the motion picture production code which attempted to define objectionable content for US audiences. Other countries would institute their own "code" systems.
Sound & cinema 1930-1960
The Golden Age of Hollywood
"The Golden Age of Hollywood" in film history roughly refers to the period beginning with the advent of sound (this was, of course, prior to The Great Depression) until after the end of WWII. This was the heyday of the Hollywood studio system with tremendous output from Universal, MGM, Columbia, UA, RKO, Paramount Studios, Twentieth Century Fox, and Warner Brothers. The Golden Age includes Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz which appeared in 1939, and are examples of the accomplishments in cinematic technique in this era. Golden Age Disney films include Bambi, (1942), Pinocchio and Fantasia both from 1940. Fantasia is notable for Fantasound, a project that incubated significant developments in film sound recording and playback techniques adopted and expanded upon by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, particularly, SMPTE -- pronounced SIMP-tee -- time code.
The "Golden Age" effectively came to a close in 1948, when in a landmark legal decision the Supreme Court of the United States found several major studios guilty of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, through their monopolizing control of the production, distribution, and exhibition of their movies.
Genre films became popular in the 1930s: westerns, comedies, musicals, dramas and cartoons. Dracula and Frankenstein incarnated into their silver screen depictions in 1931. King Kong premiered in 1933. Howard Hughes produces Hell's Angels in 1930. Disney released several short animations in the beginning of the decade, including the first Technicolor production in 1932.
See main article, Film noir
French film audiences began to notice a certain sylistic approach to certain genres, Gangster movies and crime dramas in particular, and began to refer to this type of movie as "Film noir". Robert Siodmak's The Killers (based on the Ernest Hemingway short story) is a prime example. Suspicion, (1941), and Saboteur, (1942) were Alfred Hitchcock's contributions to the style. Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941), one of the most critically and popularly acclaimed movies of all time, helped to establish film noir and became one of its icons, as did the similarly heralded Casablanca, with Humphrey Bogart. Bogart would star in 36 films between 1934 and (1942) including John Huston's The Maltese Falcon, (1941).
The 1940s: the war and post-war years
The industry and audiences turned away from dark gangster tales with the onset of the US involvement with WWII, lighter fare offered more escapism. also came a proliferation of movies as both patriotism and propaganda. Notable films from the war years include the anti-Nazi Watch on the Rhine (1943), scripted by Dashiell Hammett; Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Hitchcock's direction of a script by Thornton Wilder; and the George M. Cohan biopic, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), starring James Cagney. 1946 saw RKO Radio releasing It's a Wonderful Life directed by Frank Capra. Samuel Fuller's experiences in WWII would influence his largely autobiographical films of later decades such as The Big Red One. Oskar Fischinger films Motion Painting No. 1, 1947. The Actor's Studio was founded in October 1947 by Elia Kazan, Robert Lewis, and Cheryl Crawford.
The Silver Age
With the "Silver Age" a new medium had begun to rise. Living rooms would soon be invaded by television. The increasing popularity of this medium meant that some movie theatres would go bankrupt and close. Distressed on the increasing number of closed theatres, studios and companies would find new and innovative ways to bring audiences back, but first, Hollywood would have to endure another controversial time...
The cold war era zeitgeist translated into a paranoia manifested in themes such as invading armies of evil aliens, (Invasion of the Body Snatchers); and communist fifth columnists, (The Manchurian Candidate). With television keeping audiences home, studios came up with clever ways to virtually widen their appeal with new screen formats. CinemaScope, which would remain a 20th Century Fox distinction until 1967, was announced with 1953's The Robe. VistaVision, Cinerama, boasted a "bigger is better" approach to marketing movies to a shrinking US audience. The demise of the "studio system" spurred the self-commentary of the 1950 film, Sunset Boulevard.
Gimmicks proliferated to lure in audiences. The magic of 3-D film would last for only two years, 1952-1954, and helped sell The Creature From The Black Lagoon. Producer William Castle would tout films featuring "Emergo" "Percepto", the first of a long line of gimmicks that would remain popular marketing tools for Castle and others throughout the 1960s.
Brown v. Board of Education (1954) set the stage for The Blackboard Jungle (1955). TV productions were notable, e.g. Paddy Chayefsky's Marty (1953) was produced for television before the 1955 big screen version. Some directors would refine their styles for TV which attracts talent as well as audiences.
The House Committee on Un-American Activities investigated Hollywood in the early 1950's. Protested by the Hollywood Ten before the committee, the hearings resulted in the blacklisting of many actors, writers and directors, including Chayefsky, Charlie Chaplin, and Dalton Trumbo.
Modern movies 1960-2000
Post-classical cinema and the Bronze Age
Post-classical cinema (which roughly coincides with the Bronze Age of Hollywood) is defined by new approaches to drama and characterization that played upon audience expectations acquired in the classical/Golden Age period. Heroes became mortal, storylines featured "twist endings", lines between the antagonist and protagonist were blurred. Audiences were kept off-balance.
It is impossible to pinpoint exactly when the "post-classical era" began, film noir pointed in this direction, as did 1955s Rebel Without a Cause, and many other examples. 1960 is a good approximation, notable for Hitchcock's storyline shattering Psycho. The MacGuffin is a good example of a Post-Classical plot device.
Underground film refers to low budget, often self-produced works created outside of the studio system and without the involvement of labor unions. Student films such as Dan O'Bannon and John Carpenter's Dark Star should be included in this category, but are also considered Independent film (see main article and addendum).
Experimental film that used cinema as a vehicle of fine art had been produced since the 1940s, for example the work of Harry Everett Smith and Maya Deren, but social movements of the 1960s produced a larger and more receptive audience for this type of work and more contributors to the field, such as Kenneth Anger. Pornographic movies also avoided union involvement and appealed to an alternative, underground, audience. Melvin Van Peebles's Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song is an example of an independently created, underground movie that used post-classical plot devices -- Van Peebles touted this film as pornography project during its production to avoid complications with the Screen Actor's Guild.
The Digital Age
After the decade of the 1970s helped define the blockbuster motion picture, the way Hollywood released its films changed. Now films, for the most part, would premiere in an even wider number of theatres, although, to this day, some movies still premiere using the route of the limited/roadshow release system. Until this new "Digital Age", the primary way for audiences to see their favorite films again and again was to re-release films. But the medium of home video would change all of this.
Among the terms most associated with this new era include:
The '80s: sequels, blockbusters and videotape
The shift that occurred in the 1980s from seeing movies in a theater to watching videos on a VCR, is a move close to the original concepts of Thomas Edison. In the early part of that decade, the movie studios tried legal action to ban home ownership of VCRs as a violation of copyright, which proved unsuccessful. That proved most fortunate, however, as the sale and rental of their movies on home video became a significant source of revenue for the movie companies. Bollywood THX Ltd, a division of Lucasfilm launched in 1982.  Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980); After Hours (1985); The King of Comedy (1983).
The '90s: technical advances
Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Influence of Comics. Smoke, 1995. In the 1990s, cinema began the process of making another transition, from physical film stock to digital cinema technology. Pixar, The Matrix. Meanwhile, in the home video realm, the DVD would become the new standard for watching movies after their standard theatrical releases.
The new millennium
Peter Greenaway's The Tulse Luper Suitcases takes advantage of new media and high definition technology. Interactivity of PlayStation, &, Grand Theft Auto relationship w/cinema: actors, soundtrack, narrative structure. the Superhero, Tomb Raider, Spider-Man. Faster edits. home theatre. Future: Problems of digital distribution to be overcome -- higher compression, cheaper technology. Content security. Expiration of copyrights, enforcing copyright.
"Independent film" may be defined as any motion picture financed and produced without the aid of a movie studio. These works have contributed to the history of cinema from the early days, and will continue to do so. Notable independent flmmakers include a plethora of diverse auteurs such as D. W. Griffith, Maya Deren, Orson Welles, Russ Meyer, John Sayles, Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, and Roger Corman.
- Cinema of Italy
- Cinema of the United States
- Cinema of France
- Cinema of the United Kingdom
- Experimental film
- List of motion picture-related topics (extensive alphabetical listing)
- The Oxford History of World Cinema, Oxford University Press, 1999; Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, ed.
- Glorious Technicolor: The Movies' Magic Rainbow, Fred E. Basten. AS Barnes & Company, 1980
- New Hollywood Cinema: An Introduction, Geoff King . Columbia University Press, 2002.
- Notes on Film Noir Paul Schrader. Film Comment. '84?
- Celluloid Mavericks: A History of American Independent Film by Greg Merritt; Thunder's Mouth Press
- Glorious Technicolor; directed by Peter Jones. Based on the book (above); written by Basten & Jones. Documentary, (1998).
- The Complete History of the Discovery of Cinematography (prehistory to 1900)
- American Cinematographer - January, 1930, THE EARLY HISTORY OF WIDE FILMS
- Technicolor History
- What is a Camera Obscura?
- Film Sound History
- An Introduction to Early cinema
- Reality Film
- Film History by Decade *popup warning*
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