/ sɪnəmə /
movie theater · movie theatre · movie house · picture palace
A theater where films are shown; SYN. movie theater, movie theatre, movie house, picture palace.
20th-century form of art and entertainment consisting of “moving pictures” in either black and white or color, projected onto a screen. Cinema borrows from the other arts, such as music, drama, and literature, but is entirely dependent for its origins on technological developments, including the technology of action photography, projection, sound reproduction, and film processing and printing (see photography).
The first moving pictures were shown in the 1890s. Thomas A Edison persuaded James J Corbett (1866–1933), the world boxing champion 1892–97, to act a boxing match for a film. The Lumičre brothers in France, Latham in the US, R W Paul (1869–1943) in England, and others were making moving pictures of actual events (for example, The Derby 1896, shown in London on the evening of the race), and of simple scenes such as a train coming into a station. In 1902 Georges Méličs of France made the fantasy story film A Trip to the Moon, and in 1903 Edwin Porter directed The Great Train Robbery for Edison. This was a story in a dramatic setting, and cost about $100 to make. The film was shown all over the world, and earned more than $20,000.
Early European cinema was dominated by French and Danish films; the Italian studios became world-famous for their spectacular historical films. During World War I, most of the European film industries faltered; this and the sudden breakthrough of US artistic development combined to bring US films to Europe on a previously unknown scale; until 1925 the only European cinema to rival that of the US was Swedish. Following the end of the war, US cinema lauched a commercial drive for domination of world markets, which led to the introduction by European countries of self-protective measures such as Quota Acts.
The 1930s were notable for the development of the musical, the Western, the gangster film, the cartoon, the horror film, and the historical epic. During this time, the Indian and Japanese film industries were also achieving recognition for film production. During World War II, the British documentary movement developed into features, French films moved to myth to avoid the occupation censor, and the Swedish revival began. Immediately after the war, Italy came to the fore with neo-realism, and following the wartime success of British films, J Rank attempted to invade the US market.
For a number of years, films of indoor happenings were shot outdoors by daylight in Hollywood. The fairly constant sunny climate was the basis of its success as a center of film production. The first film studio was Edison’s at Fort Lee, New Jersey, but the Astoria Studios in New York City turned out many popular silents and early “talkies”, since it was near Broadway and could therefore make use of the theater stars on its doorstep. In England, the pioneer company of Cricks and Martin set up a studio at Mitcham. D W Griffith, the US director, revolutionized film technique, popularizing the close-up, the flashback, the fade-out, and the fade-in. His first epic was The Birth of a Nation 1915, and his second, Intolerance, with spectacular scenes in the Babylonian section, followed 1916.
At first, players’ names were of no importance, although one who appeared nameless in The Great Train Robbery, G M Anderson (1882–1971), afterwards became famous as “Bronco Billy” in a series of cowboy films. One of the first movie performers to become a name was Mary Pickford; filmgoers found her so attractive that they insisted on knowing who she was. World War I virtually stopped film production in Europe, but Hollywood continued to flourish in the 1920s, creating such stars as Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks Sr, Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Richard Barthelmess (1895–1963), and Greta Garbo (dramatic actors); and Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and Harold Lloyd (comedians). The introduction of sound from the late 1920s ended the careers of silent stars with unsuitable voices, and changed the style of acting to one more natural than mimetic. US stars of the golden Hollywood era include Clark Gable, the Marx Brothers, Judy Garland, Greta Garbo, and Joan Crawford. British st
age stars who made the transition to film include Edith Evans, Alec Guinness, Laurence Olivier, and Ralph Richardson. Although many Hollywood stars were “made” by the studios, American stage actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and Bette Davis also became stars in 1930s Hollywood and continued to act in films for many years.
Concern for artistry began with Griffith, but also developed in Europe, particularly in the USSR and Germany, where directors exploited film's artistic possibilities during both the silent and the sound eras. Silent films were never completely silent; there was usually a musical background, integral to the film, whether played by a solo pianist in a suburban movie theater or a 100-piece orchestra in a big city theater. (In Japan there was always a narrator.)
The arrival of sound films (John Barrymore as Don Juan 1926 and Al Jolson as The Jazz Singer 1927), seen at first as having only novelty value, soon brought about a wider perspective and greater artistic possibilities through the combination of sight and sound. Successful directors of early sound films included Jean Renoir in France, Fritz Lang and F W Murnau in Germany, Mauritz Stiller in Sweden, Alfred Hitchcock in Britain, and John Ford and Frank Capra in the US.
After World War II, Japanese films were first seen in the West (although the industry dates back to the silent days), and India developed a thriving film industry. Apart from story films, the industry produced newsreels of current events and documentaries depicting factual life, of which the pioneers were US filmmaker Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North 1922, Man of Aran 1934) and the Scot John Grierson (Drifters 1929, Night Mail 1936); animated cartoon films, which achieved their first success with Patrick Sullivan’s (1887–1933) Felix the Cat 1917, were later surpassed in popularity by Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse character, who first appeared in Steamboat Willie 1928, and the feature-length Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937 and others. During the 1930s classic dramas and screwball comedies were made; during the 1940s war films predominated with file noir; and during the 1950s CinemaScope and Technicolor musicals competed with early television.
the influence of television
By the 1950s, increasing competition from television, perceived at the time as a threat to the studio system of film production and distribution, led the film industry to concentrate on special effects (CinemaScope, Cinerama, Todd-AO) and wide-screen spectaculars dealing with historical and biblical themes, for example, Cleopatra 1963. Also exploited were the horror genre and areas of sexuality and violence considered unsuitable for family television viewing. Other popular genres were the Chinese Western or kung-fu film, which had a vogue in the 1970s, and science fiction, such as Star Wars 1977, Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977, and ET 1982, with expensive special effects.
Throughout the 1980s movie production was affected by the growth during the preceding decade of the video industry, which made films available for viewing on home television screens (see videocassette recorder).