Welcome, join me on my journey of learning about film from its earliest stages. Now lets turn back the time to 1895, we’re in France and who knew what great creations were going to come shortly our way.
Say hello to the Lumiere Brothers, Auguste and Louis, the two most important men of film history. In France the brothers were working in their father’s photographic studio in Lyon. Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope was publicly shown in Paris 1894, the year before the Lumiere’s Cinematograph. Which essentially was made to compete with Edison’s device.
The Cinematograph, initially a camera and projector in one and was patented in the brother’s names in that year of 1895.
Films true founding moment began in 1895, the two Lumiere Brothers demonstrated their cinematograph to the public in Paris. Initially it attracted little attention, however over time more than 2,000 people were queuing up daily. The exact forges add up to 1.5 million people gazing at a giant cinematographe in the heart of Paris.
Louis Lumière’s first film The Arrival of a Train at a Station was a single shot sequence lasting 50 seconds. The audience ducked under their seats, convinced that the train was real. Now thats something I would have loved to have witnessed.
These two experimental filmmakers were creating films and effects beyond their time. Other films such as The Demolition of a Wall (1896), looks at reverse motion being used to “rebuild” a wall, making it the first film with special effects.
Another experimental French filmmaker around at the same time was George Melies. Known as a conjurer, cartoonist, inventor and mechanic and was greatly excited when experiencing the Lumiere brother’s public displays. His own cinema the Theatre Robert Houdin in 1896 and in 1898, the shutter of his camera jammed while he was filming a street scene. Leading him to realise the potential of trick photography to create magical effects. He went to develop many cinematic devices, such as superimposition and stop motion. Melies is most notable for his film A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune 1902) and was one of his most fantastical films out of his many creations.
At this point two distinctive differences can be made from our notable filmmakers. The Lumiere brothers focused more on aspects of documentary, capturing peoples daily lives where as Melies created fiction films in his studio.
For further films, heres the first box office hits in film history.
- Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory (Lumiere brothers, France, 1895)
- Watering the Gardener (Louis Lumiere, France, 1895)
- The Demolition of a Wall (Louis Lumiere, France, 1896)
- A Trip to the Moon (George Melies, France, 1902)
- The Great Train Robbery (Edwin S. Porter, US, 1903)
- The Melomaniac (George Melies, France,1903)
- 20,000 Leauges Under the Sea (Georges Melies, France, 1907)
- The Tunnel Under the English Channel (Georges Melies, France, 1907)
- The Squaw Man (Cecil B. Demille, US, 1914)
- The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, US, 1915)
The first cinemas were called Nickelodeons due to the price of a ticket being a nickel. The word “Odean” is the Greek word for theatre. they seated a 100 and continuously, ensuring a steady flow of spectators. The first was built in 1905, and by 1907, around two million Americans were going to nickelodeons every day.
The Birth of Hollywood
Most of the American movie production companies were situated in New York in the early 20th century. Biograph Studios, established 1896, was an early home of the creative studio forces behind many major silent films.However just before the start of World war 1, a number of independent producers moved to Los Angeles and more and more films were shot there because of the space and freedom the area provided.
The Star system was developed and refined. The first performer to lay claim to the title film star was Florence Lawrence, ‘The Biograph Girl’. At the same time other stars were gaining influence. Three of the most famous, worldwide, were Mary Pickford, who made her name as ‘Little Mary’, made enormous amounts of money with films such as Little Rich Girl and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (both 1917).
On the 15th of January 1919, unhappy with the lack of independence in working under contract to others, Chaplin, Pickford, Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith founded the United Artists Corporation. Unlike the other big companies, United Artists owned no studio of its own and rented the space required for each production. Moreover, it had no cinema holdings and had to arrange the distribution of its products with cinema or circuits. Despite these drawbacks, however, United Artists was able to sustain itself, and survived.
Thank you for reading.
Research based on Robert Bergan’s The Film Book