Unit 12: Films and Context – The Birth of Cinema and Hollywood

In the beginning, there was photography in 1827, but no moving image.

No single person can truly claim to have “invented” cinema. However contributors include:

  • Louis Le Prince (UK)
  • Thomas Edison (US)
  • George Eastman (US)
  • George Melies (France)
  • The Lumiere Brothers (France)

In 1884 Eastman invented film on a roll as opposed to single slides. In 1889 he invented the kinetoscope which was a machine through which one person could view 50 feet of film through a slit in the top.

Louis Le Prince invented a machine the size of a refrigerator which could record image moving.

Then the pantopticon was invented which means more than one person could view the video at the same time.

The first film was five seconds long in January 1894 starring an Edison technician called Fred was shot on kinetoscope of a man sneezing.

The First Studio – The Black Mariah

The Lumiere Brothers made a French film of a passing train and the audience all ran out the cinema scared thinking it was coming out the screen but then came back amazed and told all their family about the new creation.

Filmmakers started to show their work in vaudeville theatres as a novelty act and were very popular.

The first small scale cinemas were created. These were called Nickelodeons because it cost a nickel (5c) to go in.

The demand for films was growing. The first “film exchange” started in 1902 which was the first form of distribution. These exchanges bought films from the producers (filmmakers) and then rented them to exhibitors (nickelodeons).

By 1907, there were 150 film exchanges in the USA.

The MPPC – Motion Picture Patents Company

In early days of film making as it became more popular, a row over film copyright emerged.

Other filmmakers were furious and refused to pay.


Laemmle decided to start his own company the Independent Motion Picture Company.

He was taken to court loads of times for trying to copy Edison’s idea.

Laemmle decided to move to LA (Hollywood) where low tax and lively theatres made it more appealing than other cities. He started Universal Studios of $5 million.

Florence Lawrence was the first film performer to be identified on screen and the first movie star.

In 1908 she started work at Biograph and was named Biograph girl.

She was blacklisted by Motion Picture Trust headed by Thomas Edison. He started a rumour that she’d been killed in a car accident and the story received good coverage in the country. Then Laemmle revealed she wasn’t dead but instead worked for Laemmle. This dramatically changed movie-making industry.

Other silent era stars include:

  • Rudolph Valentino who died aged 31 from Pulmonary Disease. Women actually killed themselves after they heard the news. He was a sex symbol.
  • Theda Bara was the first “Vamp”.
  • Fatty Arbuckle. Weighed 16 pounds at birth. He was accused of raping and murdering his housemate and was arrested over it however it wasn’t him as proven. He turned to alcohol and drugs and later died in his sleep aged 46.

The first movie with dialogue came out in 1928.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s