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A History of Cinema: History Through Film

For a high school "History Through Film" class. This is a selective "talking points" walk-through, from the invention of the movie camera to the half-century rise and fall of the studio system to the cinema of present day.

Adam Watson

on 3 February 2013

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Transcript of A History of Cinema: History Through Film

1870's - Present A History of Cinema: 1878: Eadweard Muybridge photographic horse studies, zoopraxiscope (rotating glass disc)
1889-1893: Edison and Dickson's Kinetoscope "peepshow" device
1895: Lumiere bros. create first light camera projector
1896: Alice Guy-Blache (first female director) directs earliest film narrative; also head of French production company
1905: First nickelodeon in Pittsburgh
1909: More than 9000 theaters across US. Single reel, silent but usually accompanied by live musicians, typically 10-12 min long. (Within a few years, movie lengths would be an hour or more.)
1910: L.A. annexes Hollywood
1922: Hays Office founded
1929: The first Oscars ceremony 1870's - 1920's: The Birth of Cinema Media competition (radio, TV, cable, home video, and the Internet) has always driven film innovation
1926: first film w/recorded instrumental music but no dialogue
1927: The Jazz Singer -- first recorded dialogue
1935: First full-length Technicolor film (Becky Sharp)
1939: World's Fair has first televised presidential speech.
1948: Regular TV broadcasting begins. Ticket sales decline,more "epic" movies made (often in WS formats like "Cinemascope").
1952-1955: "Golden Era of 3-D"
1960: Smell-O-Vision (Scent of Mystery)
1958-1965: director William Castle's "gimmicks" 1909: Actress Florence Lawrence was publicized by a production company, beginning the "movie star" system.
1911: Credits begin appearing in movie reels.
1912: First major studio Universal is created. First African-American studio (Lincoln Motion Picture Company) opens in 1917.
1919: Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith form an independent film studio, United Artists.
By 1930's, movie "moguls" (such as Irving Thalburg, Jack Warner, Samuel Goldwyn, and Darryl F. Zanuck) personally run most studios.
1940's: Challenge and eventual end to block booking and theater owners buying movies unscreened.
1949: Under government pressure, studios sell off theaters.
1953: Seven year contracts replaced with picture deals.
1966: Purchase of Paramount by multinational conglomerate begins end of "one person rule" of studios. 1910's - 1960's:
The Rise and Fall of the Studio System Unrest always part of Hollywood: unionization, strikes, contract disputes, fights with censorship, civil rights issues
1940: Hattie McDaniel first African-American to earn an Oscar
1947: Fear of communism, HUAC, blacklist begins
1950's: attempt to capture "teenager" audience
1940's - 1960's: Italian neo-realism, French "New Wave" films, and the visual and narrative choices of Japanese directors like Akira Kurosawa are heavily influential to later American directors.
1963: A book by critic Andrew Sarris introduces the auteur idea to American audiences.
1968: MPAA ratings begin
1969: The failure of several epic Hollywood movies and the success of Easy Rider (budget of under $400,000, box office $41.7 mil) encourages studios to empower new, younger "auteur" directors
1971: success of Shaft makes "blaxploitation films" popular
1969-1980: Successful wave of auteur films by Coppola, Scorcese, Altman, Bogdanivich and others
1974: Julia Phillips, co-producer of The Sting (1973), is first female producer to win Best Picture Oscar.
1980: Failure of Cimino's Heaven's Gate seen as end of auteur decade 1940's - 1970's: Revolution & The Auteur 1970's - 1990's: Blockbusters, Home Video, and the Rise of the New Independents 21st Century:
A New Digital & Virtual Frontier THE END Major Sources:
Digital History (Chronology of Film History): http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/historyonline/film_chron.cfm
Film History Milestones (AMC Network): http://www.filmsite.org/milestones.html
Professor Wheeler Winston Dixon and his University of Nebraska-Lincoln "Frame by Frame" series: http://eng-wdixon.unl.edu/wdixon.html
Peter Biskind's book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" (1998) The Great Train Robbery (1903). One of the first Westerns. Look for the handtinting throughout, and make sure to watch the famous ending! Le Voyage dans la lune (1902). This French-made film was one of the first science-fiction movies. Go to 4:25 (about a third of the way into the movie) to watch the famous scene of the cannon-rocket landing on the moon's "face." City Lights (1931). Charlie Chaplin (often performing as his character "The Little Tramp") was one of the silent film era's greatest and most famous stars. In this scene excerpt, think of the discipline, rehearsal, and artistry necessary to pull off the physical comedy -- without CGI! D.W. Griffith -- born and buried here in Crestwood, KY -- was perhaps the silent film era's most acclaimed director. He was one of the first to use modern camera movements and shots, and often had an epic scope of sets, special effects, and numbers of actors. However, one of his most well-known movies, Birth of a Nation (1915), was and is still controversial for its racist treatment of African-Americans and pro-Confederacy bias. The story is centered around the Civil War and its aftermath. In this clip, Union soldiers raid a Southern home. Note all the supposedly black soldiers are white actors in "blackface." The trailer for Becky Sharp (1935). "Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothin' yet" -- the first words of dialogue spoken (by Al Jolson) in the first full-length "talkie" The Jazz Singer (1927). The Robe (1953) was the first released movie made in Cinemascope. The film is typical of the "epic" movies that tried to lure television viewers to the theater. House of Wax (1953) was one of the classic movies of the "Golden Age of 3-D." 3-D movies were anything but subtle, as you can tell by this scene with a paddle ball. The Tingler (1959) was one of director William Castle's more (in)famous movies. Castle's had WWII surplus airplane parts installed under certain seats in theaters that created a vibration sensation at certain points in the film. In his other films, Castle's gimmicks included buying life insurance policies for all audience members (in case they die of fright while watching), and the audience voting mid-movie whether a killer would be cured or dies at the end. 1920's - 1960's:
Talkies, Technicolor, Television, "The Tingler" http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/08/dminus_for_3d.html How badly did Heaven's Gate flop?
Budget $44 mil --- Box office $3.4 mil
Shot 1.5 million feet of film (220 hours), printing 1.3 million feet of it
Original workprint length 325 min -- released at 149 min. After WWII, fear of communists "infiltrating" positions of power and influence, especially the U.S. government, often led to extremism and paranoid witch-hunts. The House Un-American Activities Committee investigated Hollywood in 1947, and called dozens of directors, actors, screenwriters and producers to testify. Many who refused to cooperate were blacklisted and/or held in contempt of Congress, resulting in some serving jail time. Soon after, the studios further dismissed approximately 300 movie professionals, often only on the suspicion of being sympathetic to Communist beliefs. The blacklist did not end as a policy until 1960, when Dalton Trumbo was allowed screenplay credit -- the first blacklisted person "officially" permitted to work after 13 years. Still, others did not work for much longer, or never worked again in Hollywood. Before the 1960's, the vast majority of mainstream Hollywood movies tended to be pro-American, light, optimistic, and have clear, happy endings. Critical and commercial successes like The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde (both 1967) revealed a change in the audience's taste toward movies that were more realistic, ambiguous, pessimistic, and critical of American values. In this scene excerpt from The Graduate, the uncertainty of Dustin Hoffman's character post-college in an American future of fakeness ("plastics!") mirrored the country's decade of questioning long accepted truths. Bond. James Bond. Could there be any other film franchise more enduring and a part of the Hollywood mainstream? Yet behind the popcorn entertainment we can see other forces at work. Examining the half-century of Bond movies (starting with Dr. No in 1962), we can see it as a valuable resource for examining the changing social and culture forces (particular in politics and gender relationships) in each film's background context. From a purely cinematic standpoint, we can also see the evolution of style, techniques, and special effects. These trailers from three Bond films of the 1970's make a case for all of the above, in addition to the influence of movie fads of the time. The first half of the Live and Let Die (1973) trailer gives more than a nod to "blaxploitation" films. The first minute of The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) shows the emerging popularity of Asian martial arts films, such as Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon (1973). Lastly, as the final minute of the Moonraker (1979) trailer reveals (Bond in space, complete with a laser gun shootout!), it was heavily influenced by the success of sci-fi movies such as Star Wars (1977). It's hard to imagine an event like this before the 1970's. On behalf of Marlon Brando, Sacheen Littlefeather refuses to accept his 1973 Best Actor Oscar for Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather (1972). Brando had been a long supporter of civil rights, including the plight of Native Americans; at the time of the broadcast, 200 members of the American Indian Movement were in a month-long armed standoff with federal agents at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Afterwards, the show's producers made a rule that winners could no longer choose a person to accept (or refuse!) an award on their behalf. This hypnotic and surreal opening to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) immediately puts us in the haunted mindset of the character Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen). With Coppola in complete creative control of the film, the director's ego and bad luck nearly ruined the production. Shooting began in March 1976 with a budget around $14 million. Production delays (some unavoidable, such as a monsoon ruining sets and Sheen having a heart attack) resulted in a final budget of $31.5 million, with principal photography not ending until May 1977. When editing was finally completed over a year later, the released movie earned 8 Oscar nominations and won 2 (Best Cinematography and Best Sound). Without Coppola's artistic talent, ambition, and vision, Apocalypse Now would never had been completed. It would be nearly impossible for a studio to give up such control today. 1972: Deregulation allows pay cable TV to spread. HBO premiered the same year, followed later by ESPN (1979), CNN (1980), and MTV (1981).
1975: Jaws, using national TV advertising, opens wide to record $129 mil
1977: Star Wars released in May; grosses $193.5 mil by November
1978: Sundance Film Festival begins
1980's: VCRs become affordable, rental market takes off
1992: John Singleton youngest and first African-American to be nominated for Best Director Oscar for Boyz N The Hood (1991)
1997: First DVD players hit US market, costing over $1000.
1998: James Cameron's $200 million production of Titanic (1997) wins 11 Oscars including Best Picture. Its worldwide box office gross of $2.18 billion was not beaten until Cameron's Avatar (2009) did so 12 years later.
1999: The Blair Witch Project, made independently for $25,000, grosses $248 million. Closely interconnected world; world box office gross is now at least as important as domestic; how we experience movies is rapidly changing.
1999: Netflix begins mail-rental of DVDs
2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, despite its Cantonese dialogue, is commercially successful in America.
2002: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones first feature-length movie shot and released digitally.
2006: Blu-Ray players make US debut
2008: Netflix begins video streaming on XBox. The first Hollywood film partially shot with IMAX cameras, The Dark Knight, is released.
2009: Cameron's Avatar premieres w/significant advancment in CGI and 3-D. On budget of $237 mil, it has grossed $2.78 billion. Also shown in 4-D in South Korea and Hong Kong.
2010: Apple releases the first iPad. Blockbuster LLC files for bankruptcy. Kathryn Bigelow first woman to win Oscar for Best Director (The Hurt Locker, 2008). http://www.filmsouthinc.com/Blockbuster-1.jpg Before Jaws (1975), few movies opened "wide." Instead of releasing coast to coast, they often premiered in a few theaters in Los Angeles and New York, building word of mouth as movies sometimes took months to finally screen in the Midwest. Movies that did open wide were seen as desperate; without wide release, national television spots were worthless. Jaws successfully broke with both of these taboos, and movie release patterns and marketing were changed forever. In this ESPN commercial, Will Ferrell acts as the title character of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy (2004). Through this fictional audition (set in 1979), Burgandy voices many of the true-to-life criticisms of pay cable said by others in the late 1970's. Few thought American audiences would watch that much TV, or that 24/7 content could be produced or found. In the end, Hollywood discovered another revenue stream and an additional market for showing films outside of theaters. By the 1980's, making movies was often less about making art and more about making money. Product placement in films had occurred before, but never to such a degree, as this clip explains. In general, merchandising and marketing has taken over Hollywood. It used to be that toys were often based on movies; now, movies are often based on toys. Cable TV and direct-to-video provided a market for independent movies to successfully compete and flourish. (As a sign of independent film's ascendency, the Sundance Channel -- branded from the film festival -- launched in 1996.) By the end of the 20th century, inexpensive camera equipment and computer desktop editing also made it easier for non-Hollywood filmmakers to make a movie. The Blair Witch Project (1999) was heavily improvised and shot with handheld cameras by the actors themselves, with guidance from directors' notes. The shaky cinema verite quality, the "found footage" conceit, and its Internet site that purported the legend of Blair Witch was real became quickly imitated. The clip above shows two teaser trailers; note the prominance of the movie's website. "I want my MTV.." It's hard to to convey the impact of Music Television on many areas of world culture, including movies. As music videos became short films with budgets of millions of dollars, it became its own art form, launching the career of several directors and actors. The look of MTV, with its fast paced editing and garish visuals, were hugely influential (for better or for worse) on directors such as Baz Luhrmann and Michael Bay. It also allowed for special effect and film technique experimentation that would soon after appear in Hollywood movies. "Money for Nothing," a 1985 song and video by Dire Straits, was notable for its early use of CGI. The lyrics are a clever critique of musicians more concerned about image than songs, the negative affects of rampant consumerism, and MTV itself; however, the album version has lyrics many found derogatory. Ironically, MTV was largely responsible for the success of Dire Straits in the 1980's. The importance of Netflix in film preservation is discussed by Professor Wheeler Winston Dixon. In this clip, Professor Dixon laments the end of film as a media. Just as we adjusted to the "talkie" revolution almost a century ago, we must adjust to fully digital cameras, projection, and distribution. Created in 2012 by Adam Watson
English Teacher, South Oldham High School, Crestwood, KY USA
For educational use only.
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