The Beginning of Moviesby Tyler Woods on Jul. 17, 2009, under Life
I was out and about last night and all the chatter seemed to be around the new Harry Potter movie. It seems like so many people get so worked up over this young wizard. It got me thinking about movies and how they came about.
I think to begin to talk about movies we have to look at the very end of the 1800’s. Actually 1894 to be exact because that is when the Edison Corporation established the first motion-picture studio, a Kinetograph production center nicknamed the Black Maria (slang for a police van).
The first Kinetoscope parlor opens in New York City and people could watch films for 25 cents. Meanwhile in 1895 in France, brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière held the first ever private screening this is because the brothers invent the first Cinématograph which was a combination camera and projector. They showed a small image of an oncoming train and history was made.
If we move into 1900’s actually 1903, the Edison Corporation mechanic Edwin S. Porter decides to be a cameraman, director and producer to make a movie called The Great Train Robbery. This 12-minute short establishes the shot as film’s basic element and editing as a central narrative device and becomes the first Western.
Of course, if we want to watch movies we must have a theater, or a movie house as it was called back then. Therefore, in 1905 the first movie theater opens in Pittsburgh and really what is a movie without some sort of reviews, so in 1909 The New York Times publishes the first movie review, a report on D. W. Griffith’s Pippa Passes.
Now don’t plug your ears because in 1910 Thomas Edison introduces his kinetophone, and creates talking movies which begins movie making history.
What is a movie without actors? So in walks Charlie Chaplin and in 1914 he did his second big-screen appearance in The Little Tramp. In addition, 1915 D. W. Griffith did a Civil War epic, The Birth of a Nation and introduces the narrative close-up, the flashback and other elements that carry on today as the structural values of narrative filmmaking. Things seem to be changing fast and in 1916 Charlie Chaplin signs on with Mutual Studios and earns an unprecedented $10,000 a week.
Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton created an innovative language of visual comedy while folks like Erich von Stroheim and Cecil B. DeMille turned movies into show biz and sex symbols like Rudolph Valentino and Greta Garbo. Films really took off in the 1920s. Most US film production at the start of the decade occurred in or near Hollywood on the West Coast, and by the mid-20s, movies were big business with a capital investment totaling over $2 billion.
Stars like Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson and Wallace Reid were considered leading stars and attracted the public eye, stardom was not just for humans. In 1923 Rin-Tin-Tin became most famous dog ever to star in the movies and in 1922 Walt Disney released the cartoon, Four Musicians of Bremen.
True to American lifestyle by 1924 Americans demanded bigger and better pictures rather than low budget films. Hearing the call of the people, films became more detailed and by 1926 Over 400 feature films were made at a cost of 120 million dollars and there were 14,600 movie theatres in the U.S. Rudolph Valentino was dead at the age of 31 and America wanted talking films and movie theaters were upgraded with sound systems.
Times were a changing. Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer films start with a logo of roaring lion which still is seen today. The film industry was now committed to sound and by 1929 silent movies would become a thing of the past. The thirty’s would escort sound, drama, and the beginning of Hollywood who ha. In my home town of Tucson Arizona, The Fox Theater that was built in 1929 and opened in 1930 is a reminder that even a little western town like Tucson would soon welcome the films as the era of Hollywood comes to its dusty little town.
Photo by Sergey Siz