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How Has the Movie Industry Evolved?

Updated on May 21, 2013

Replica of Zoetrope

Photograph  Andrew Dunn, 5 November 2004.   Website:  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Photograph Andrew Dunn, 5 November 2004. Website: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Eadward Muybridge

Photographic History Collection, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Photographic History Collection, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution | Source

The Early Development of the Film Medium Before Edison

Early scientific study concerning study of moving pictures invovled persistence of vision. This concept was essentially the fact that what the eye would see in a given moment was stored in the mind. That is, even a space between rapid succession of movement of pictures could not be detected.

An early invention which was part of the stroboscopic toys was the zoetrope invented by William George Horner in 1834, which was a hollow drum with slits that contained pictures and when spun, it created movement. It was an optical illusion. In time, in 1882, Etienne Jules Marey from Paris constructed a camera that could take multiple photos per second and shaped like a weapon, it took twelve images each second. Marey improved this method in 1888 by using paper roll film inside.

In 1877, Edward Mulbridge, on a $25,000 bet with California Governor Leland Stanford, proved that a horse's gallop could have all four hooves off the ground. He did this by setting up 24 cameras with attached strings being triggered by the horses.

In 1884, George Eastman invented the process of photos to be developed on celluloid film. He patented the first film in roll form. He produced the Kodak camera designed for roll film and in 1892, the Eastman Kodak Company was established in Rochester, New York. This company was one of the firms to mass-produce standardized photography equipment and produce flexible transparent file which effected the motion picture industry.

Edison's First Motion Picture Studio: The Black Maria
Edison's First Motion Picture Studio: The Black Maria

First Motion Picture Machine

A device allowing one person at a time to view a short film.
A device allowing one person at a time to view a short film.

Edison and the Lumiѐre Brothers - The Beginning of the Film Industry

Thomas Edison played an important role in moving pictures. His laboratory was on property on which he created the Black Maria (named as such after the nickname of police patrol wagons). The black Maria was a black building of which the roof could be raised to let in sunlight and the building was on a pivot allowing the building to follow the sun. Edison worked with employee, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, who was also to become an asset to the industry's beginning. In time, however, Dickson would leave him to go to the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (later known as "Biograph").

Edison manufactured the Kinetescope which could be viewed by one person as a time. This machine was set up in nickolodeons, which were set up in store fronts where people were admitted for 5 cents to view the short films.

About this same time in France, the Lumiѐre Brothers were trying to improve on Edison's accomplishments. In fact, in December 1895, they opened the first theater in the basement of a cafe'. In their efforts with the film making, they weren't concerned so much with telling a story inasmuch as showing an event or an action such as their short film on factory workers leaving the Lumiѐre Building.

It's interesting to note that Edison, Marey, and Dickson didn't conceve early on how they could enlarge pictures for a larger audience. In time, however, the Vitascope would be invented which could project pictures in a larger view for such an audience.

Acclaimed Filmmaker, Director and Screenwriter
Acclaimed Filmmaker, Director and Screenwriter
One of the most important African-American Filmmakers.
One of the most important African-American Filmmakers.
 David Llewelyn Wark Griffith (1875-1948) Actor, film director, film producer
David Llewelyn Wark Griffith (1875-1948) Actor, film director, film producer

First Important Filmmakers Prior D.W. Griffith

One of the important filmmakers prior D.W. Griffith was Georges Méliès. He came up with fantasy films and made grand back drops, had a variety of set changes and costume changes. His "Trip to the Moon" implemented this imagination and creativity. One of the humorous scenes therein was when the rocket crashed into the ye of the animated moon.

Another film maker, King Vidor, made "The Crowd," which was very moving emotionally even without sound. The film, "The Great Train Robbery" was one of the first films where color (red and green) was implemented.

Oscar Micheaux was one of the most important African-American filmmakers who, with determination and perservance, formed his own studio making his own films.

The Significance of D.W. Griffith in American Film History

D.W. Griffith will be known, in part, for his involvement in the makings of the three hour film entitled, "Birth of a Nation." Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks were two of four who formed United Artists, which was solely used for film distribution.

Griffiths established cross-cutting and close-up shots as well as near/far shots, all of which could bring a scene together to tell the emotional side of the story. Griffit helped well-knowns such as Dorothy and Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford.

The Rise of the American Film "Studio System"

Adolph Zukor was known as the King of Paramount. H was a smart businessman in th ewya he gained his power. Carl Laemmle headed Universal Studios and developed Universal City in Southern California. There were four Warner brothers affiliated with the Warner Brothers Studio. There was the less financially "big" studio with RKO. Harry Cohn headed Columbia Studio. William Fox had Fox Films which merged with David Zanuck's Twentieth Century to become 20th Century-Fox. There was also well-known animated Disney Studios movies started by Walt Disney. Also, Marcus Loew got together with Samual Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer to form MGM.

One of the studios was lucky in that it had Frank Capra who did well with his "It Happened One Night" with Clark Gable and Greta Garbo.

Founded 1929
Founded 1929

The Development of Specific "Studio Styles"

Even though RKO didn't have a large budget, its musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were not to be compared in equality to Busby Berkeley's musicals, which were interesting for its time with the kaleidoscope effected scenes. His dance numbers did not run as smooth or flow as smoothly as Fred and Ginger's did.

The style of the studios was also enhanced by their respective stars also. For example, Universal's horror films of Dracula with Bela Lugosi or Frankenstein or Wolfman would be reflective of Universal.

Where MGM was more strict and family oriented (Wizard of Oz 1939), Paramount was more relaxed in allwoing its writers and directors more freedom. They were two of the most powerful and yet so different.

The Development of the Sound Film

Sound came with film in 1927 with Western Electric's invention of the Vitaphone. Western Electric using an audion tube and electromagnetic photograph reproducer. Sam Warner liked the idea and approved the item to be created at the Vitaphone Corporatio.

One of the problems with sound was actually hearing the actor speak in a language or tone that would be acceptable to the audience, i.e., what if one's voice was too high-pitched, or suppose the actor was foreign and didn't speak fluent English?

Also, the camera would make too much noise and had to be soundproofed. Eventually, a blimp was developed to go over the camera to shield the noise. Additionally, when in the on-set of sound there was only one mmicrophone, the makers would hide it and the actors ahd to be wherever the microphone was, thus, they were limited.

The Silent Film Comedy/Comedians

Max Sennett is to be thanked for his contributions to the era of silent comedies. He headed the Keystone Studio that produced "the Keystone Cops."

Charlie Chaplin is well-noted for his contribution with his tramp theme. He is one of the most famous and creative mimes for his time.

Harold Clayton Lloyd and "Fatty" Arbuckle were contributors as well. Unfortunately, Fatty's career essentially ended after he was accused of rape.

The silent comedy era was bascially slapstick comedy.

History of Censorship in the American Film Industry

The industry should have realized that in due course, there would come a time wherein people would come to view that based on morals and/or virtues, the films had either too much violence and/or sex content.

In 1934, the Production Code came into effect. Will Hays headed the "Hays Office" as it came to be nicknamed. The rule was to cut out the promotion of sexual promiscuity in films and unnecessary violence so that it did not appear as if films were stating thse acts or actions were acceptable in society. James Breen later became in charge of the Production Code Administration.

The films had to pass inspection, so to speak, and if anyone released their films without said approval, there was alofty fine. This code, ironically enough, was out of order in the 1960s for the same reason it was put into effect.

Major Genres of "The Classic Hollywood Film"

One of the popular genres were the gangster films put out by Warner Brothers. Then, there were the "Smooth Musicals" by RKO with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Warner Brothers also had biographies and musicals. When the egangster films had to tone down their content, there was the journalism cycle. We had the Busby Berkely musicals with the kaleidoscope scenes with camera angled from the ceiling. There were also Universal Studio's horror films.


Submit a Comment

  • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

    Justin W Price 

    6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

    Excellent work. Fascinating piece. I love old films. I've seen most of the work of DW Griffith. Well executed and researched hub. Shared.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Wow, Epi, thanks so much for your kind and complimentary words! I'm grateful.

  • epigramman profile image


    6 years ago

    ...what a sensational selection of hubs you have my friend and this one is exceptional for its research and world class presentation making it definitive in terms of being a landmark film hub and so very worthy of a posting to my Facebook page with a direct link back here.

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  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Thanks very much for your comment.

  • FilmRebel profile image


    7 years ago from Ohio

    nice post you seem to really know your stuff. I just started on here and am writing movie reviews and such love to hear some fedback from you.

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    It's so remarkable how creativity and innovation as well as all the technological advances have affected our movie industry. Thanks much for your comments.

  • anusha15 profile image

    Anusha Jain 

    7 years ago from Delhi, India

    When we look at the quite developed film industry of modern times, when we are laughing our heads off, or crying watching an effective actor's emotional performance, we seldom think about the incremental steps the industry must have gone through. History of something which we can co-relate to is really intriguing. Well presented hub.

  • ournote2self profile image


    7 years ago

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!


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