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    History of the American Film Industry Essay

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    America, being at the forefront of film in our current society, has come a long way with regards to the industry of film. Rising from 1894, when the world’s first commercial motion picture exhibition was given in New York (Ref library book), America’s film industry has become increasingly more advanced and entertaining to countries all over the world. This essay will take a deeper look into the history of the American film industry and investigate the various accomplishments and discoveries that led to the establishment of what we now call “Hollywood. ” The Beginning of the Film The motion pictures did not originate as art but as a machine. ? (Ref the American Film Industry p27). In the very beginning of the American film industry, a device dubbed the ?magic lantern’ was introduced which consisted of pictures that had been painted on glass were placed in front of a lantern in a dark room and these images would appear on the opposite wall (Ref Bib Book p3). This, some would say, was the experiment that spurred on the desire to begin the search of new ways into viewing pictures, and later on, the search to create the possibility of moving pictures.

    The “zoopraxiscope ?, exhibited by Eadweard Muybridge in 1893 began the widespread discussion of the possibility of moving pictures (Ref Bib Book p5). The thought of the illusion of motion first became possible with the invention of the Kinetoscope, created by Thomas Edison and William Dickson in 1889, was used (REF Bib Book p7). A kinetoscope refers to a device that creates the illusion of movement by means of a perforated strip of film showing a sequence of images over a light source and a high-speed shutter (Figure 1)(Reference from some book).

    Although only able to be viewed by one person at a time and the films only being as long as a minute, this device formed the beginning of the entire basis of the film industry. Branching off from Edison’s kinetoscope was the “mutoscope ?, which was a peep-show cabinet, and Henry Marvin’s “biograph ?, which were both invented in order to create more money making opportunities in the soon-to-be film industry (Ref Bib Book p8).

    From the kinetoscope came the system of projection, created by C. Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat in 1893, which allowed more than one individual to view a film at a time (ref from The American film industry). As technology in this area advanced, so did the entire film industry along with its fan base. “Pictures of life in action attracted more attention and produced more entertainment than sounds transmitted through ear-pieces… ? (REF Bib Book p8). The Rise of Cinema In order to create more opportunities to gain money, bigger cinema’s needed to be created in order to accommodate more people.

    In this way, a new and profitable entertainment field was discovered by introducing the invention of a projection machine (Ref Bib Book p9). The first two that were invented were the “panopticon”? and the “vitascope?,” both invented in 1895 (Ref Bib Book p10). The panopticon, produced by the Lambda Company, displayed a motion picture of a prize fight all of which lasted five minutes (Ref Bib Book p10). The vitascope, on the other hand, was produced by Thomas Armat and C. Francis Jenkins.

    As these motion pictures became more widely recognised and advanced, so the ways of viewing these motion pictures needed to become more advanced as well. In order to accommodate the growing amount of people interested in these motion pictures, parlours were joined up with store-rooms of which doors and windows were removed to create a wider entrance (Ref Bib Book p9). This was believed to invite pedestrians to enter and be intrigued by the motion pictures that they viewed, and this worked (Ref Bib Book p9).

    The entrance would be decorated with circus-like posters and (Figure 2)(Reference). These opened up store-rooms and parlours became known as “show-shops” and later became known as “penny-arcades” due to the fact that penny’s was what were used as form of payment for entering the show-shop. Eventually, these penny-arcades became known as “cinemas. ” LumiAre, a Parisian and one of the men who had made a peep-show cabinet and camera (like Edison’s kinetoscope), called his device the “cinematograph ? and from that day forward, “cinema ? was used to describe motion pictures.

    Cinemas were usually placed in upper class urban areas as exhibitors aimed at attracting an affluent middle class audience (Ref the American Film Industry p19). These “cinemas,” over time, gradually took new and different forms. As they grew more and more popular, more space was needed in order to accommodate the new crowd. The Dewey Theatre was one of the first major theatres to arise during this period. Converted from a church into a cinema by William Fox, it had the capacity to seat up to a thousand individuals (figure 3)(Ref the American Film Industry p19).

    Multiple shows would be presented that lasted for two hours, and uniformed ushers would greet the viewers and show them to their seats (Ref the American Film Industry p19). This radically altered the nature of going to the movies, as evident in today’s society when viewing a film at the cinema. Cinemas soon became designed to make the patron feel more at home, by increasing the comfortableness of the patrons experience as well as providing snacks and refreshments (Ref the American Film Industry p62).

    One cinema that was established in New York was especially hospitable. Created by E. F. Proctor, the “Pleasure Palace ? included a main auditorium as well as a roof garden, German cafA©, smaller auditorium, Turkish bath, and stands selling various goods (Ref the American Film Industry p62). Patrons were asked to pay a small fee before entering but were then given free rein to enjoy the pleasures of the Pleasure Palace for the day (Ref the American Film Industry p62). The Establishment of Hollywood

    Due to the fact that it was in America much of these changes within the film industry began occurring, it became known as the central area for films to be produced. Between the 1920’s and 1940’s, the area in which American film was being produced became known as Hollywood (Ref). Hollywood is situated in Los Angeles, California and has become intimately associated with describing American cinema (Ref History of American Movies p3).

    One of the earliest film companies to make its way to the top in Hollywood was Paramount Pictures, founded by Cecil B. DeMille in 1913 (Ref History of American Movies p4). Paramount Pictures has become one of the most widely known film companies of today and have created various awarded winning movies in our recent day and age. some of these movies include ?The Godfather’ released in 1972 (which won the Academy Ward for Best Picture), ?Braveheart’ released in 1995 (which also one an Academy Award for Best Picture), as well as ‘Titanic’ released in 1997 (which was the winner of 11 Academy Awards which included the award for Best Picture) (Ref Wikipedia).

    It is therefore evident that Paramount Pictures was one of the earliest and foremost companies that lasted into the 21st Century. It is interesting to note how producers knew what sort of films would sell better than others. They did this by listening to the audience’s comments as they exited the cinema, as well as observing their response to the film in terms of tears, laughter or indifference as they watched. ADD The Stages of Hollywood From the first film ever made was the beginning of the silent era.

    From 1895 (the beginning of the American film industry) all the way to 1927, films were produced as silent films (Ref History of American Movies p3). However, the movies were not watched in complete silence. Live music played from either a single piano or a live orchestra was presented to accompany the silent film (Ref History of American Movies p3). One of the very first silent films to be produced was in 1903 “The Great Train Robbery,” by Thomas Edison (reference). It was only twelve minutes long, yet was a major breakthrough with regards to the film industry.

    This era lasted up until 1929, until the studio era promptly took over. From 1930-1949, the American film industry entered the studio era (Ref an Intro to Film Studies p7). During the studio era, films were made within a studio and studio’s controlled all aspects of filming. There were five main studios where films were produced which were referred to as the “big five ?. These included MGM, Paramount Pictures, Fox Films, Warner Brothers and RKO (Ref http://www. umsl. edu/~gradyf/film/STUDIOS. htm). During this era, studios would create a multiple movies and sell them to a movie house for a set price.

    This meant that movie houses got a package deal, in a sense. Studios would make their money by adding a few low budget movies that weren’t very popular into the package; in other words, the package not only included A films, but B films as well (Ref The Hidden art of Hollywood: In defense of the studio era p3). This system was referred to as the studio system (Ref The Hidden art of Hollywood: In defense of the studio era p3). Studios would produce films by the reel and exhibitors (owners of cinemas around America) would pay a rental fee for a certain amount of reels per day (Ref Bib Book).

    The studio system also created what was known as the “star system ?. This referred to how particular actors and actresses were prepared for stardom by the studios not only controlling their on-set lives, but how they were portrayed off-set as well. The stars were kept under firm control via contracts they signed with the studios which therefore meant that they had almost no control over their own careers (Ref The Hidden art of Hollywood: In defense of the studio era p3). By 1954, however, laws were declared that rendered the studio system ineffective.

    Once the studio system had ended, much of the way in which films used to be made ended. Directors and producers could no longer depend on putting bad movies along with good movies into packages to gather their profit. They now had to depend on making one worthy movie that would draw high amounts of attention at the box office in order to create a profit rather than a loss (Ref The Hidden art of Hollywood: In defense of the studio era p6). Golden Age. The Stars of Hollywood The first well-known actor that became widely known in Hollywood went by the name Charlie Chaplin.

    Making his debut in his first film “Making a Living,” released in 1914, by 1931 had won the hearts of many Americans across the country (Figure 4)(Ref Funny pictures: Animation and comedy in studio-era Hollywood p15). He was the star of many silent films during the silent era and has become an icon with regards to cinema (Ref Funny pictures: Animation and comedy in studio-era Hollywood p15). Therefore it is evident to say that Charlie Chaplin was the star of the silent era. Some other famous names that found their way toward Hollywood and into some of America’s earliest films made after the studio system.

    Marilyn Monroe is among these famous names. A young actress in the 1940’s who was most famous for her innocent character and extreme beauty (figure 5)(Ref Marilyn Monroe by Andrews McMeel p26). James Dean, another remarkable and memorable face in the early stages of Hollywood, became most well-known for his mysterious, rebel image. These famous faces were few and far between. Yet as time conceded, more and more actors and actresses began falling in line, waiting to be the next big thing in Hollywood. In present times, the amount of actors and actresses that are circulated around Hollywood are numerous.

    Due to the rapid growth and development of the American film industry, Hollywood has become bigger and better. Mass amounts of individuals flock to Hollywood in order to chase their dreams and become one of these well-known stars. It is therefore apparent that, in the past, Hollywood was much more elite, whereas nowadays Hollywood has become a sea of competition with regards to starring in films. It is interesting to note how, during the early stages of Hollywood, the stars that were made famous became iconic figures and role models for many people across America and across the world.

    However, in present-day Hollywood, although various stars of Hollywood have become role models to different youth, they are nowhere near the iconic status as the stars of previous Hollywood, such as Chaplin, Monroe, and Dean. It is also easier to make ones way into the American film industry in present times compared to previous decades, as there are much more genres being used, as well as the fact that the scale at which movies have been made has drastically increased. Hollywood Then and Now Talk about how genres have changed and how genres are intermingled. How that making of movies have changed.

    From the very beginning of the American film industry, genres have been an important aspect in producing films. The use of genres has been used in order to direct a films attention to specifics group of people and have been used in many different manners. A genre refers to a ?type’ or ?kind’ (Ref Genre and Hollywood by Steve Neale no page). Some examples of the types of genres that have made its way into the American film industry are horror films, comedies, romance, western, and many more. During the early stages of Hollywood, however, types of genres were very limited.

    The most evident of genres were that of western films (Thomas Edison’s “The Great Train Robbery” being the first film ever made), and comedies (as seen in the many films that Charlie Chaplin starred in during the silent era). However, as the film industry in America developed, producers began playing around with different types of genres. It became noticeable as well as to which genres proved to be most popular, and these would become mass produced. In other words, cinema began shifting its focus on mainstream, commercial films and this was most evident with regards to Hollywood films (Ref Genre and Hollywood by Steve Neale no page).

    Barry Keith Grant, a professor, states that “genre movies are those commercial feature films which, through repetition and variation, tell familiar stories with familiar characters in familiar situations. ? (Ref Genre and Hollywood by Steve Neale no page). This was especially evident with Romantic Comedies where similar stories occurred with minor differences: boy and girl meet, fall in love, a conflict or misunderstanding between the two occur, they sort it out and the film ends with the two happily in love.

    As time passed and the industry further developed, genres were further discovered and experimented with. These discoveries gave birth to sub-genres and also to the possibility of intermingling between genres. From the simple little kinetoscope only being able to be viewed by one person at a time, to the invention of the projector, the American film industry has not only grown in audience, but grown in technology too. The making of movies has become more and more complex with regards to the equipment used in the production of a film.

    Since the late 1980’s, the equipment used began developing at a fast rate. The use of digitization of sounds and special effects pushed the American film industry even further than it had ever been before (Ref American film in the digital age by Robert Sickels p11). The American Film Industry vs. the Rest of the World’s Film Industries Therefore, it is widely evident that the American film industry has become the biggest and most popular film industry in the world.

    Although foreign films are occasionally distributed across the world, the amount of American films distributed and displayed in most parts of the world are a vast majority higher than those nationally made films (excluding America of course) (Ref American film in the digital age by Robert Sickels p2). Robert Sickels elaborates on this in his book “American Film in the Digital Age,” asking the question “When is the last time you saw Nollywood/ Bollywood/ Iranian/ name-the-country, etc. , film in an American theatre or on American television? “? (Ref American film in the digital age by Robert Sickels p2).

    This indicates that America has dominated the film industry over the years and continues to do so; creating bigger and better films each year and making billions off of the viewers that support these films. Being the first country to introduce the possibility of moving pictures into the world, America has continued to impress the rest of the world with its increasingly high standards in the production of movies. It can also be said that the film industry has not only altered technology with regards to computerised and digitized effects in films and other media, but it has also had a vast effect on social change.


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