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Towards the end of the nineteenth century, in the era of the second industrial revolution, the growth of transport networks, the expansion of urbanization and strong population growth, the demand for entertainment resulted in a sudden rise. Originally, the expenditure was predominantly used for live entertainment, sports, music and a newly formed amusement called cinematographic entertainment. Motion pictures were initially exhibited at fairs as a novelty until it expeditiously became one of the most important tools of communication and the dominant form of popular entertainment. Cinema has undergone many transformations and major developments since the late nineteenth century, including the adoption of colour, sound and new inventions of cultural forms were needed, such as the building of new spaces and need for new environment, which has enabled it to become a major, international, commercial industry by the end of WWI.
As a medium devised in the late nineteenth century, cinema became contemporary and was developed in an era during the formation of modern science and modern society. Technological inventions such as the radio and X-rays were among the technological advances during this period, yet cinema was not only regarded as a modern technological creation, it is also a modern social practice. As a radically democratic medium, cinema became the beginning of the emergence of mass society and popular culture. The direct and complex relationship which exists between modernist literature and film have became principle topics over the last few decades. According to Andrew Shail, ‘Among the reasons proffered for modernists’ shares affinity for cinema has been the idea that cinema was an innately modernist medium. Even modernism’s contemporaries witnessed an affinity on this basis.’ The desire to understand how film contributed to the formation of modernist literature as it developed in the final years of the nineteenth century was acknowledged by many as the birth of cinema became one of the most favoured leisure activities for millions in the upcoming decades. The birth of cinema and its technological advances over the last few decades has allowed it to become one of the vital economic and social forces, which shaped the modern world.
It is argued that there was no single person to create cinema, yet there are many inventors who contributed to the birth and development of it. Cinema evolved through an international process of innovation in different areas. Filmed in 1878, “The Galloping Horse” was the first motion picture ever made, created by Eadweard Muybridge as he took a series of photographs of a rider on a galloping horse for a photographic experiment. By 1880, Muybridge publicly projected these moving images on a screen, being the earliest known motion picture exhibition. ‘The warning of modernism in the later twentieth century brought with it a broader understanding of motion pictures and photography, showing how Muybridge’s multifaceted career, with his taste for show business, put him in the vanguard of a new form of entertainment.’ Cinema as one of modernism’s major causes may seem inadvisable as it was far from a novelty during the time of its ‘birth’ in 1895. In the UK alone, ahead of the Lumières’ debut of the Cinematographe, the British public were able to sample animated photographs for almost 17 months, due to the launch of the first ‘parlour’ of the Kinetoscope, devised by Edison on 18 October 1894. ‘Thomas A. Edison’s peephole Kinetoscope dominated the field of motion pictures for less than two years (1894-95)’. This was made from a strip of film which was passed between a lens and an electric lamp while a single viewer would peer through a peephole. Initially, Edison regarded this as an insignificant toy until 1894, when the Kinetoscope was publicly exhibited in New York City, creating immediate sensation. Several Kinetoscopes sold in Europe and shaped the premise of the primary device used to project motion-picture film.
‘In the past, when examining the introduction of projected motion pictures in the US, we have tended to put the Edison Vitascope against the Lumière Cinematographe. Yet Edison and his associates were initially much more concerned about the British threat… the fledgling British film industry had a longer-term impact on the motion picture fled by the Lumières.’ By 1902, longer fiction films became the priority as the novelty of Edison’s movements were no longer of interest to audiences. Antoine Lumière, father of Louis and Auguste, known as ‘the Lumière brothers’ had a notion to create and develop a cheaper and more practical alternative to the Kinetoscope. Antonie encouraged Auguste and Louis to work on this idea of having multiple people viewing the projected film at the same time, creating their own device called the Cinématographe (1895).
The French inventors devised the Cinématographe to be much lighter and smaller than the Kinetograph and was a lot more functional in terms of it projecting film at a speed of 16 frames per second, much slower than Edison’s device (48 frames per second), which resulted in it generating less noise used less film. The Cinématographe was being used all throughout North America and Europe within months of it presenting the first cinema show to a paying audience on Dec. 28, 1895 in the Grand Café, Paris. They created films such as ‘La Sortie des ouvriers de l’usine Lumière’ (Workers Leaving the Factory) which is considered the first motion picture and L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de la Ciotat (Arrival Of A Train At La Ciotat Station) with these films of everyday life adding greatly to the popular culture. By 1905, the brothers viewed film as a novelty and therefore withdrew from the film business as other competing devices emerged.
Initially, films were very short, usually only a few minutes long and were projected at music halls, fairgrounds, theatres and were accompanied by music, lecturers and the participation of audiences. The novelty began to wear off by 1897 as there were too few films to sustain an audience, yet one of cinema’s most prime pioneers, Georges Méliès, worked in an age when the medium was rapidly changing. According to critics, ‘The reputation of cinema as a medium devoted to entertainment was an eventful destination and not a foregone conclusion.
In the novelty era, from its origins until around 1901, cinema performed a range of functions: it provided its viewers with increased visual awareness of the natural world, access to remote corners of the globe, and immediate reports of pertinent events, both local and international’. Méliès expanded on cinema’s purpose as his main benefaction to cinema in 1896-97 was in establishing the possibilities of the medium for narrative and performance, which began the beginning of ‘film grammar’ and his recognition for the need for scenes to be edited together to tell a story. His creation of basic special effects and editing (jump cuts, fades, stop motion) and the addition of colour to many of his films allowed him to transform filmmaking from monotonous single action shots to an imaginative storytelling vehicle.
His most celebrated work includes the 1902 silent film ‘Le Voyage la Lune’, the first of the science fiction genre and one of the most influential films of cinema history. The introduction of Flickers and Nickelodeon’s were established during this time and allowed for the expansion of cinema to be accessed by mass audiences. With films becoming longer and beginning to tell a story, ‘Early cinema reached its widest scope with the commencing boom of fixed-site cinemas from 1906 onward’ and the popularity of the Nickelodeon (especially from women, children and white collar workers) led to a Nickelodeon boom, with 14,000 being built by 1914. ‘British Pathé was once a dominant feature of the British cinema experience… The birth of this phenomenon took place when renowned French filmmaker Charles Pathé came to London in 1910 to introduce an innovative medium to British audiences – the cinema newsreel.’ Under the leadership of Pathé, film producers issued the rapidly expanding market of fixed-site cinemas with various short films of different genres each week. Thus, from 1906 to 1912, there became evidently more films being preserved than from the preceding years. With the rising production of films, producers developed a wider diversity along with escalate standardization within genres themselves, therefore permitting cinema owners to provide audiences with fine entertainment, moving away from the novelty form.
The success of such theatres such as the Nickelodeon paved the way for the advancement of the film industry. By acknowledging the cinemas considerable money making prospective, investors began opening the first permanent film theaters around the country. Production companies needed to meet demands as motion pictures grew and at the peak of this Nickelodeon’s popularity, there were around 20 motion picture companies in the United States, which led to disputes over patent rights and industry control. By 1912, many major companies moved to Hollywood as it was proved to be an ideal location in terms of the weather, the plentiful and cheap land and easy accessible locations. By 1915, over 60 percent of U.S film production was centred in Hollywood. During this time, cinema was maturing as a medium and was becoming a huge international entertainment industry. A division began to occur between Nickelodeon’s and theatres and ‘movie palaces’ not only came to replace Nickelodeon theatres, but also created the demand that led to the Hollywood studio system.
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