how long has sinemia been around

how long has sinemia been around

how long has sinemia been around

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History of film

Although the advent of film as an artistic medium is not clearly defined, the commercial, public screening of ten of Lumière brothers’ short films in Paris on 28 December 1895 can be regarded as the breakthrough of projected cinematographic motion pictures.

There had been earlier cinematographic results and screenings by others like the Skladanowsky brothers, who used their self-made Bioscop to display the first moving picture show to a paying audience on 1 November 1895 in Berlin, but they lacked either the quality, financial backing, stamina or the luck to find the momentum that propelled the cinématographe Lumière into a worldwide success.

how long has sinemia been around
how long has sinemia been around

The earliest films

how long has sinemia been around

Soon film production companies and studios were established all over the world. The first decade of motion picture saw film moving from a novelty to an established mass entertainment industry. The earliest films were in black and white, under a minute long, without recorded sound and consisted of a single shot from a steady camera.

Conventions toward a general cinematic language developed over the years with editing, camera movements and other cinematic techniques contributing specific roles in the narrative of films.

Special effects became a feature in movies since the late 1890s, popularized by Georges Méliès’ fantasy films. Many effects were impossible or impractical to perform in theater plays. And thus added more magic to the experience of movies.

3D

Technical improvements added length (reaching 60 minutes for a feature film in 1906), synchronized sound recording (mainstream since the end of the 1920s), color (mainstream since the 1930s) and 3D (temporarily popular in the early 1950s and mainstream since the 2000s). Sound ended the necessity of interruptions of title cards, revolutionized the narrative possibilities for filmmakers, and became an integral part of moviemaking.

Popular new media, including television (mainstream since the 1950s), home video (mainstream since the 1980s) and internet (mainstream since the 1990s) influenced the distribution and consumption of films. Film production usually responded with content to fit the new media, and with technical innovations (including widescreen (mainstream since the 1950s), 3D and 4D film) and more spectacular films to keep theatrical screenings attractive.

Systems that were cheaper and more easily handled (including 8mm film, video and smartphone cameras) allowed for an increasing number of people to create films of varying qualities, for any purpose (including home movies and video art). The technical quality was usually lower than that of professional movies, but improved with digital video and affordable high quality digital cameras.

1990

Improving over time, digital production methods became more and more popular during the 1990s, resulting in increasingly realistic visual effects and popular feature-length computer animations.

Different film genres emerged and enjoyed variable degrees of success over time, with huge differences between for instance horror films (mainstream since the 1890s), newsreels (prevalent in U.S. cinemas between the 1910s and the late 1960s), musicals (mainstream since the late 1920s) and pornographic films (experiencing a Golden Age during the 1970s).

WHO INVENTED CINEMA?

how long has sinemia been around

No one person invented cinema. However, in 1891 the Edison Company successfully demonstrated a prototype of the Kinetoscope, which enabled one person at a time to view moving pictures.

The first public Kinetoscope demonstration took place in 1893. By 1894 the Kinetoscope was a commercial success, with public parlours established around the world.

The first to present projected moving pictures to a paying audience were the Lumière brothers in December 1895 in Paris, France. They used a device of their own making, the Cinématographe, which was a camera, a projector and a film printer all in one.

Edison and the Lumière brothers

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, and it quickly became the most popular home-entertainment device of the century. Seeking to provide a visual accompaniment to the phonograph, Edison commissioned Dickson, a young laboratory assistant, to invent a motion-picture camera in 1888. Building upon the work of Muybridge and Marey, Dickson combined the two final essentials of motion-picture recording and viewing technology.

These were a device, adapted from the escapement mechanism of a clock, to ensure the intermittent. But regular motion of the film strip through the camera. And a regularly perforated celluloid film strip to ensure precise synchronization between the film strip and the shutter. Dickson’s camera, the Kinetograph, initially imprinted up to 50 feet (15 metres) of celluloid film at the rate of about 40 frames per second.

how long has sinemia been around
how long has sinemia been around

 William Friese-Greene

how long has sinemia been around

Dickson was not the only person who had been tackling the problem of recording and reproducing moving images. Inventors throughout the world had been trying for years to devise working motion-picture machines. In fact, several European inventors, including the Englishman William Friese-Greene, applied for patents on various cameras, projectors, and camera-projector combinations contemporaneously or even before Edison and his associates did.

Because Edison had originally conceived of motion pictures as an adjunct to his phonograph. He did not commission the invention of a projector to accompany the Kinetograph. Rather, he had Dickson design a type of peep-show viewing device called the Kinetoscope, in which a continuous 47-foot (14-metre) film loop ran on spools between an incandescent lamp and a shutter for individual viewing.

1894

Starting in 1894, Kinetoscopes were marketed commercially through the firm of Raff and Gammon for $250 to $300 apiece. The Edison Company established its own Kinetograph studio in West Orange, New Jersey, to supply films for the Kinetoscopes that. Raff and Gammon were installing in penny arcades, hotel lobbies, amusement parks, and other such semipublic places.

In April of that year the first Kinetoscope parlour was opened in a converted storefront in New York City. The parlour charged 25 cents for admission to a bank of five machines.

WHAT WERE EARLY FILMS LIKE?

At first, films were very short, sometimes only a few minutes or less. They were shown at fairgrounds, music halls, or anywhere a screen could be set up and a room darkened. Subjects included local scenes and activities, views of foreign lands, short comedies and newsworthy events.

The films were accompanied by lectures, music and a lot of audience participation. Although they did not have synchronised dialogue, they were not ‘silent’ as they are sometimes described.

THE RISE OF THE FILM INDUSTRY

By 1914, several national film industries were established. At this time, Europe, Russia and Scandinavia were the dominant industries; America was much less important. Films became longer and storytelling, or narrative, became the dominant form.

As more people paid to see movies, the industry which grew around them was prepared to invest more money in their production, distribution and exhibition. So large studios were established and dedicated cinemas built. The First World War greatly affected the film industry in Europe, and the American industry grew in relative importance.

The first 30 years of cinema were characterised by the growth and consolidation of an industrial base, the establishment of the narrative form, and refinement of technology.

THE GOLDEN AGE

how long has sinemia been around

The so-called Golden Age of Hollywood was dominated by those eight powerful studios and defined by four crucial business decisions. First and foremost, at least for five of the eight, was the emphasis on vertical integration. By owning and controlling every aspect of the business, production, distribution and exhibition, those companies could minimize risk. And they could maximize profit by monopolizing the screens in local theaters.

Theatergoers would hand over their hard-earned nickels regardless of what was playing. And that meant the studios could cut costs and not lose paying customers. And even for those few independent theater chains, the studios minimized risk through practices. Such as block booking and blind bidding. Essentially, the studios would force theaters to buy a block of several films to screen (block booking). Sometimes without even knowing what they were paying for (blind bidding).

how long has sinemia been around
how long has sinemia been around

Earn money

One or two might be prestige films with well-known actors and higher production values. But the rest would be low-budget westerns or thrillers that theaters would be forced to exhibit. The studios made money regardless.

The second crucial business decision was to centralize the production process. Rather than allow actual filmmakers – writers, directors, actors – to control the creative process, deciding what scripts to develop and which films to put into production. The major studios relied on one or two central producers. At Warner Bros. it was Jack Warner and Darryl Zanuck. At RKO it was David. O. Selznick. And at MGM it was Louis B. Mayer and 28 year-old Irving Thalberg.

how long has sinemia been around

1936

Thalberg would become the greatest example of the central producer role, running the most profitable studio throughout the Golden Age. Thalberg personally oversaw every production on the MGM lot, hiring and firing every writer, director and actor. And he often taking over as editor before the films were shipped off to theaters. And yet, he shunned fame and never put his name on any of MGM’s productions. Always in ill-health, perhaps in part because of his inhuman workload, he died young, in 1936, at age 37.

The third business decision that ensured studios could control costs. And it could control maximize profits was to keep the “talent” – writers, directors and actors – on low-cost, iron-clad, multi-year contracts. As Hollywood moved into the Golden Age, filmmakers – especially actors – became internationally famous. Stardom was a new and exciting concept, and studios depended on it to sell tickets.

Celebrities

But if any one of these new global celebrities had the power to demand a fee commensurate with their name recognition. It could bankrupt even the most successful studio. To protect against stars leveraging their fame for higher pay. And thus cutting in on their profits, the studios maintained a stable of actors on contracts that limited their salaries to low weekly rates for years on end no matter how successful their films might become.

There were no per-film negotiations and certainly no profit sharing. And if an actor decided to sit out a film or two in protest, their contracts would be extended by however long they held out. Bette Davis, one of the biggest stars of the era, once fled to England to escape her draconian contract with Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. sued the British production companies that might employ her and England sent her back. These same contracts applied to writers and directors, employed by the studio as staff, not the freelance creatives they are today. It was an ingenious (and diabolical) system that meant studios could keep their production costs incredibly low.

Creativity

The fourth and final crucial business decision that made the Golden Age possible was the creative specialization, or house style, of each major studio. Rather than try to make every kind of movie for every kind of taste. The studios knew they needed to specialize, to lean into what they did best. This decision, perhaps more than any of the others, is what made this period so creatively fertile.

Despite all of the restrictions imposed by vertical integration, central producers, and talent contracts, the house style of a given studio meant that all of their resources went into making the very best version of certain kind of film. For MGM, it was the “prestige” picture. An MGM movie almost always centered on the elite class, lavish set designs, rags to riches stories, the perfect escapist, aspirational content for the 1930s.

For Warner Bros. it was the gritty urban crime thriller: Little Caesar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931), The Maltese Falcon (1941). They were cheap to make and audiences ate them up. Gangsters, hardboiled detectives, femme fatales, these were all consistent elements of Warner Bros. films of the period.

how long has sinemia been around

And for Universal, it was the horror movie:

Frankenstein (1931), Dracula (1931), The Mummy (1932), all of them Universal pictures (and many of them inspired by the surreal production design of German Expressionist films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari).

But the fun and profits couldn’t last forever.

Three important events conspired to bring an end the reign of the major studios and the Golden Age of Hollywood.

First, in 1943, Olivia de Havilland, a young actress known for her role as Melanie in Gone with the Wind (1939), sued Warner Bros. for adding six months to her contract, the amount of time she had been suspended by the studio for refusing to take roles she didn’t want. She wasn’t the first Hollywood actor to sue a studio over their stifling contracts. But she was the first to win her case.

Studio income

The court’s decision in her favor set a precedent that quickly eroded the studios’ power over talent. Soon actors became freelance performers, demanding fees that matched their box office draw. And even profit participation in the success of their films. All of which took a sizeable chunk out the studios’ revenue.

Then, in 1948, the U.S. government filed an anti-trust case against the major studios. Finally recognizing that vertical integration constituted an unfair monopoly over the entertainment industry. The case went to the Supreme Court and in a landmark ruling known as The Paramount Decision. The court ordered that all of the major studios sell off their theater chains and outlawed the practices of block booking and blind bidding.

It was a financial disaster for the big studios. No longer able to shovel content to their own theater chains, studios had to actually consider what independent theaters wanted to screen and what paying audiences wanted to see. The result was a dramatic contraction in output as studios made fewer. And fewer movies with increasingly expensive, freelance talent hoping to hit the moving target of audience interest.

And then it got worse.

In the wake of World War II, just as the Supreme Court was handing down The Paramount Decision. The television set was quickly becoming a common household item. By the end of the 1940s and into the 1950s, the rise of television entertainment meant fewer reasons to leave house and more reasons for the movie studios to panic.

Some of them, like MGM, realized there was money to be made in licensing their film libraries to broadcasters. And some of them, like Universal, realized there was money to be made in leasing their vast production facilities to television producers. But all of them knew it was an end of an era.

how long has sinemia been around
how long has sinemia been around

Death of cinema?

how long has sinemia been around

The death of cinema has been predicted again and again — with the widespread introduction of television in the 1950s, or the advent of video cassettes in the 1980s. But never have things looked as bleak as in this year. With losses of up to 70%, many in the industry think that cinema, in its conventional form, is doomed.

German film and television producer Uli Aselmann, who produced the 2017 movie Jugend ohne Gott, said the experience of going to the movies needs to be made special again. Others like Lars Henrik Gass, head of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, believes that as cultural venues, cinemas should be accorded a museum-like status and subsidized as a cultural enterprise.

Loss of 1 billion euros

Meanwhile, German cinemas seem to be heading toward extinction, especially with the latest lockdown that was put in place shortly before Christmas. In a recent press release, Christine Berg, said the new lockdown would wipe out many cinemas. “We will close this year with losses of around €1 billion, including concessions. We cannot cope with that,” she said.

German cinemas have been shut for the last 5 1/2 weeks. According to a mid-April survey conducted by the HDF during the first lockdown, 58% of the cinemas responding to the questionnaire estimated they would be able to survive only for the next two to three months. More than half a year later, the situation is likely to be much worse.

This article has been adapted from German by Manasi Gopalakrishnan.

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