A very short history of cinema | National Science and Media Museum (2022)

Learn about the history and development of cinema, from the Kinetoscope in 1891 to today’s 3D revival.

Cinematography is the illusion of movement by the recording and subsequent rapid projection of many still photographic pictures on a screen. Originally a product of 19th-century scientific endeavour, cinema has become a medium of mass entertainment and communication, and today it isa multi-billion-pound industry.

Who invented cinema?

No one person invented cinema. However, in 1891 the Edison Company successfully demonstrated a prototype of theKinetoscope, which enabled one person at a time to view moving pictures.

The first public Kinetoscope demonstration took place in 1893. By 1894 the Kinetoscope was a commercial success, with public parlours established around the world.

The first to present projected moving pictures to a paying audience were the Lumière brothers in December 1895 in Paris, France.They used a device of their own making, the Cinématographe, which was a camera, a projector and a film printer all in one.

What were early films like?

At first, films were very short, sometimes only a few minutes or less. They were shown at fairgrounds, music halls, or anywhere a screen could be set up and a room darkened. Subjects included local scenes and activities, views of foreign lands, short comedies and newsworthy events.

The films were accompanied by lectures, music and a lot of audience participation. Although they did not have synchronised dialogue, they were not ‘silent’as they are sometimes described.

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The rise of the film industry

By 1914, several national film industries were established. At this time, Europe, Russia and Scandinavia were the dominant industries;America was much less important. Films became longer and storytelling, or narrative, became the dominant form.

As more people paid to see movies, the industry which grew around them was prepared to invest more money in their production, distribution and exhibition, so large studios were established and dedicated cinemas built. The First World War greatly affected the film industry in Europe, and the American industry grew in relative importance.

The first 30 years of cinema were characterised by the growth and consolidation of an industrial base, the establishment of the narrative form, and refinement of technology.

Adding colour

Colour was first added to black-and-white movies through hand colouring, tinting, toning and stencilling.

By 1906, the principles of colour separation were used to produce so-called ‘natural colour’ moving images with the British Kinemacolor process, first presented to the public in 1909.

Kinemacolor was primarily used for documentary (or ‘actuality’) films, such as the epic With Our King and Queen Through India (also known as The Delhi Durbar) of 1912, which ran for over 2 hours in total.

The early Technicolor processes from 1915 onwards were cumbersome and expensive, and colour was not used more widely until the introduction of its three‑colour process in 1932. It was used for films such as Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz (both 1939) in Hollywood and A Matter of Life and Death (1946) in the UK.

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Adding sound

The first attempts to add synchronised sound to projected pictures used phonographic cylinders or discs.

The first feature-length movie incorporating synchronised dialogue, The Jazz Singer (USA, 1927), used the Warner Brothers’ Vitaphone system, which employed a separate record disc with each reel of film for the sound.

This system proved unreliable and was soon replaced by an optical, variable density soundtrack recorded photographically along the edge of the film, developed originally for newsreels such as Movietone.

Cinema’s Golden Age

By the early 1930s, nearly all feature-length movies were presented with synchronised sound and, by the mid-1930s, some were in full colour too. The advent of sound secured the dominant role of the American industry and gave rise to the so-called‘Golden Age of Hollywood’.

During the 1930s and 1940s, cinema was the principal form of popular entertainment, with people often attending cinemas twice a week. Ornate ’super’ cinemas or ‘picture palaces’, offering extra facilities such as cafés and ballrooms, came to towns and cities; many of themcould hold over 3,000 people in a single auditorium.

In Britain, the highest attendances occurred in 1946, with over 31 million visits to the cinema each week.

What is the aspect ratio?

Thomas Edison had used perforated 35mm film in the Kinetoscope, and in 1909 this was adopted as the worldwide industry standard. The picture had a width-to-height relationship—known as the aspect ratio—of 4:3 or 1.33:1. The first number refers to the width of the screen, and the second to the height. So for example, for every 4 centimetres in width, there will be 3 in height.

With the advent of optical sound, the aspect ratio was adjusted to 1.37:1. This is known as the ‘Academy ratio’, as it was officially approved by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars people) in 1932.

Although there were many experiments with other formats, there were no major changes in screen ratios until the 1950s.

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How did cinema compete with television?

A very short history of cinema | National Science and Media Museum (9) Cinerama Inc.

The introduction of television in America prompted a number of technical experiments designed to maintain public interest in cinema.

In 1952, the Cinerama process, using three projectors and a wide, deeply curved screen together with multi-track surround sound, was premiered. It had a very large aspect ratio of 2.59:1, giving audiences a greater sense of immersion, and proved extremely popular.

However, Cinerama was technically complex and therefore expensive to produce and show. Widescreen cinema was not widely adopted by the industry until the invention of CinemaScope in 1953 and Todd‑AO in 1955. Both processes used single projectors in their presentation.

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CinemaScope ‘squeezed’ images on 35mm film; when projected, they were expanded laterally by the projector lens to fit the screen. Todd-AO used film with a width of 70mm. By the end of the 1950s, these innovations had effectively changed the shape of the cinema screen, with aspect ratios of either 2.35:1 or 1.66:1 becoming standard. Stereo sound, which had been experimented with in the 1940s, also became part of the new widescreen experience.

Specialist large-screen systems using 70mm film were also developed. The most successful of these has been IMAX, which as of 2020 has over 1,500 screens around the world. For many years IMAX cinemas have shown films specially made in its unique 2D or 3D formats but more recently they have shown popular mainstream feature films which have been digitally re-mastered in the IMAX format, often with additional scenes or 3D effects.

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How have cinema attendance figures changed?

While cinemas had some success in fighting the competition of television, they never regained the position and influence they held in the 1930s and 40s, and over the next 30 years audiences dwindled. By 1984 cinema attendances in Britain had declined to one million a week.

A very short history of cinema | National Science and Media Museum (12) Image source for The Point multiplex cinema, Milton Keynes

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By the late 2000s, however, that numberhad trebled. The first British multiplex was built in Milton Keynes in 1985, sparking a boom in out-of-town multiplex cinemas.

Today, most people see films on television, whether terrestrial, satellite or subscription video on demand (SVOD) services. Streaming film content on computers, tablets and mobile phones is becoming more common as it proves to be more convenient for modern audiences and lifestyles.

Although America still appears to be the most influential film industry, the reality is more complex. Many films are produced internationally—either made in various countries or financed by multinational companies that have interests across a range of media.

What’s next?

In the past 20 years, film production has been profoundly altered by the impact of rapidly improving digital technology. Most mainstream productions are now shot on digital formats with subsequent processes, such as editing and special effects, undertaken on computers.

Cinemas have invested in digital projection facilities capable of producing screen images that rival the sharpness, detail and brightness of traditional film projection.Only a small number of more specialist cinemas have retained film projection equipment.

In the past few years there has been a revival of interest in 3D features, sparked by the availability of digital technology.Whether this will be more than a short-term phenomenon (as previous attempts at 3D in the 1950s and 1980s had been) remains to be seen, though the trend towards 3Dproduction has seen greater investment and industry commitment than before.

Further reading

Pictureville Cinema Category: Film listings Pictureville is the home of cinema at the National Science and Media Museum. Our three fantastic screens show everything from IMAX blockbusters to indie gems.
Robert Paul and the race to invent cinema Discover the story of Robert Paul, the forgotten pioneer whose innovations earned him the title of ‘father of the British film industry’.

FAQs

Where was the first cinema in the world? ›

The first to present projected moving pictures to a paying audience were the Lumière brothers in December 1895 in Paris, France.

How would you describe the history of cinema in the Philippines? ›

Early Years of Philippine Cinema

Films were first shown in the Philippine Islands in 1897 during the revolt against Spain, when two Swiss businessmen sponsored the opening of the Cinematografo in Manila. From this, the word “cine” became slang for the movies.

How has cinema changed over the years? ›

The cinema has evolved from black-and-white silent films edited by physically cutting film strips to 3D digital content spliced together on computers. The digital age has allowed for better quality, color, sound, and even computer-generated imagery (CGI).

What is the early name of film? ›

It was called a zoetrope. In October 19, 1878, Scientific American published a series of pictures depicting a horse in full gallop, along with instructions to view them through the zoetrope.

What is the oldest cinema in the world? ›

The oldest purpose-built cinema in operation is the Eden Theâtre (France, est. 21 March 1899), which has been operational for 122 years 102 days, in La Ciotat, France, as of 1 July 2021. The theatre was first opened on 15 June 1889 in La Ciotat, known as the birth city of cinema.

Which is the oldest theatre? ›

The Teatro Olimpico (Olympic Theatre) in Vicenza, Italy, is widely regarded as the oldest theatre in the world. Its first performance took place roughly 550 years ago, in 1585.

What is the first cinema presentation in the Philippines? ›

January 1, 1897

The first film screenings in the Philippines took place on this day. The title of the films shown were Un Homme Au Chapeau (Man with a Hat), Une scene de danse Japonaise (Scene from a Japanese Dance), Les Boxers (The Boxers), and La Place de L'Opera (The Place L'Opera).

What is the first cinema in the Philippines? ›

This led to the making of the first Filipino film, La vida de Jose Rizal. By 1914, the US colonial government was already using films as a vehicle for information, education, propaganda and entertainment.

How important are films in the Filipino culture? ›

Why do we have to preserve film? As an audio-visual medium, film gives us the most effective record of the past, of the culture, the people's values, attitudes, mores and way of life. For film students and practitioners, exposure to Filipino film classics can give a sense of history and perspective.

When did cinema become popular? ›

In the United States, film established itself as a popular form of entertainment with the nickelodeon theater in the 1910s. The release of The Jazz Singer in 1927 marked the birth of the talking film, and by 1930 silent film was a thing of the past.

What is the difference between old and new films? ›

Most older movies will have far longer cuts than modern movies, whereas many modern movies will have cuts every few seconds. So, many older movies (pre-1970's) will be more like watching a play with a camera following the action, while a newer movie will cut between cameras far more often.

What is the full meaning of film? ›

Definitions of film. a form of entertainment that enacts a story by sound and a sequence of images giving the illusion of continuous movement. “the film was shot on location” synonyms: flick, motion picture, motion-picture show, movie, moving picture, moving-picture show, pic, picture, picture show.

Who made the first film? ›

Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)

The world's earliest surviving motion-picture film, showing actual consecutive action is called Roundhay Garden Scene. It's a short film directed by French inventor Louis Le Prince. While it's just 2.11 seconds long, it is technically a movie.

What is the purpose of cinema? ›

Cinema, which is used to educate people, as well as to entertain, influence and direct them, is accepted and used as the most important cultural conveyor of the 21st century. Cinema has the feature of reflecting the social, political and cultural changes and of contributing to reconstruction of reality.

In which country there is no cinema? ›

Saudi Arabia is the country in the world to have no cinema theaters. With the exception of one IMAX theater in Khobar by Khalid, there were no cinemas in Saudi Arabia from 1983 to 2018, although there was occasionally talk of opening movie theaters, and in 2008 conference rooms were rented to show the comedy Mennahi.

What was the first color film? ›

The first commercially produced film in natural color was A Visit to the Seaside (1908). The eight-minute British short film used the Kinemacolor process to capture a series of shots of the Brighton Southern England seafront.

Where is the oldest cinema in the country? ›

The oldest continuously operating cinema theatre is the Washington Iowa State Theatre (USA) in Washington, Iowa, USA, which opened on 14 May 1897, and as of 26 January 2022 has been in continuous operation for 124 years, 257 days.

Who invented theatre? ›

The Ancient Greeks not only invented theater itself, but they also created multiple genres, including the comedy, tragedy, and the satire genres. Each of these entertained audiences at first in Athens, and then the practice spread throughout Greece.

Why is theatre history important? ›

There are reasons the best degree-granting acting programs require history and literature courses and position them as prerequisites for joining the profession, and they go far beyond the trite cliché of “knowing the rules in order to break them.” Studying theater history and dramatic theory provides an overview of the ...

When was the first film shown? ›

On December 28, 1895, the world's first commercial movie screening takes place at the Grand Cafe in Paris. The film was made by Louis and Auguste Lumiere, two French brothers who developed a camera-projector called the Cinematographe.

What are the characteristics of film in the Philippines? ›

Most films made in the Philippines are in Tagalog. Sex and violence are major themes in films, which are often adaptations of American screen productions. American films are popular and readily available, and so high-quality Filipino films have been slow to develop.

Why is the 1950s considered the golden age of Philippine cinema movies? ›

The 50s may be considered one "Golden Age" for the Filipino film because cinematic artistic breakthrough was achieved in that decade. Awards were first instituted in this era. The Manila Times Publishing Company set up the Maria Clara Awards in 1950.

Who brought cinema in the Philippines? ›

One year earlier, January 1, 1897, the Philippines experienced its first film screening, as a Spanish man, Pertierra, introduced the chromophotograph. Half a year later, another Spaniard, Ramos, brought the cinematograph to the Philippines.

Who introduced film in the Philippines? ›

The Advent of Cinema in the Philippines

During the last decade of the 19th century, in 1896, a Spaniard by the name of Pertierra, prepared to launch his first movie show in Manila at Christmas Time.

Is 1898 a true story? ›

Based on true events, the film recounts the final days of the Spanish Empire's last colony. Fifty men were sent to reclaim the village of Baler (the Philippines) where, against all odds, the soldiers manage to hold off an army of native Tagalogs for nearly a year.

How many categories are there in movies? ›

Williams (no relation to Linda Williams) argues that all narrative feature length films can be categorized as one of eleven "super genres" (Action, Crime, Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Science Fiction, Slice of Life, Sports, Thriller, War and Western).

What is local movie? ›

Stephen Bottomore, for example, defines the local film as a motion picture in which there is “significant overlap” between the people in the audience and the people in the film.

What is the contribution of animation to the art of film making? ›

Animation is important because it makes us be able to tell stories and communicate emotions and ideas in a unique, easy-to-perceive way that both small children and adults can understand. Animation has helped connect people throughout the world in a way that sometimes writing and live-action films cannot.

What is the Golden Age of film? ›

The Golden Age of Hollywood began during the Great Depression in the late 1920s and continued through to the early '60s. Film technology took off with more studios making talkies and filming in technicolour and cinemascope.

How is a film made? ›

The moviemaking process has three main stages: pre-production (planning), production (filming), and post-production (editing and sharing). Pre-production is the planning stage, where you work out your movie in detail. You need to plan what you're going to film, how you'll film it, and what you'll need for the shoot.

What is silent era of cinema? ›

The art of motion pictures grew into full maturity in the "silent era" (1894 in film – 1929 in film). The height of the silent era (from the early 1910s in film to the late 1920s) was a particularly fruitful period, full of artistic innovation.

What are the types of film? ›

  • Feature films. [40 min or more]
  • Short films. [under 40 min]
  • Animated films.
  • Film adaptations.
  • Historical films.
  • Biographical films.
  • Silent films.
  • Documentary films.
6 Aug 2022

When did movies become color? ›

The first color negative films and corresponding print films were modified versions of these films. They were introduced around 1940 but only came into wide use for commercial motion picture production in the early 1950s.

What was the best era of movies? ›

Most film scholars will tell you that the 1970s were the greatest decade of film.

What is the cinematography of a film? ›

cinematography, the art and technology of motion-picture photography. It involves such techniques as the general composition of a scene; the lighting of the set or location; the choice of cameras, lenses, filters, and film stock; the camera angle and movements; and the integration of any special effects.

What are the 5 elements of film? ›

There are five elements of film which is narrative, cinematography, sound, mise-en-scene, and editing. These five elements help determine the film and a way to judge a film.

Who made the first color movie? ›

More than a century after it was made, archivists from the National Media Museum in the UK have discovered the world's oldest motion picture filmed in color, from 1902. The film, made by inventor Edward Raymond Turner, features images of his pets and what archivists believe are his three children playing outside.

What was the first film created? ›

1888. In Leeds, England Louis Le Prince films Roundhay Garden Scene, believed to be the first motion picture recorded.

What was first horror movie? ›

The best known of these early supernatural-based works is the 3-minute short film Le Manoir du Diable (1896), known in English as both "The Haunted Castle" or "The House of the Devil". The film is sometimes credited as being the first ever horror film.

Why is it called a cinema? ›

Cinema is from the French cinématographe which comes in part from the greek kinema, meaning movement. So cinema is really just another word meaning moving picture. It also has come to mean more generally the process of film-making and also the building where films are shown.

How does cinema impact society? ›

Sitcoms and comedy shows make us laugh, psychological thrillers help us see the world from an improved perspective, and historical films help us understand where we've come from as a people. Every video and every film reflects society and transforms opinions.

Where is the oldest movie Theatre? ›

The oldest continuously operating cinema theatre is the Washington Iowa State Theatre (USA) in Washington, Iowa, USA, which opened on 14 May 1897, and as of 26 January 2022 has been in continuous operation for 124 years, 257 days.

Where was the first cinema in the UK? ›

Cinema first came to the UK in 1896 when the Lumière brothers showcased their revolutionary short films at the Polytechnic in Upper Regent Street.

When was the first film created? ›

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Roundhay Garden Sequence is the oldest known film in existence. The film was released on October 14, 1888 and was remastered in 1930 by the National Science Museum.

When was the first movie theater opened? ›

Our own NPR movie critic reflects on the 100th anniversary of the first public movie theater in the United States. On June 19, 1905, the Nickelodeon opened in Pittsburgh, Penn. ALEX CHADWICK, host: A hundred years ago Sunday, America's first motion picture theater opened to the public.

What was the first movie theatre? ›

In 1896, Vitascope Hall, believed to be the first theater in the U.S. devoted to showing movies, opened in New Orleans.

What was the first color film? ›

The first commercially produced film in natural color was A Visit to the Seaside (1908). The eight-minute British short film used the Kinemacolor process to capture a series of shots of the Brighton Southern England seafront.

Which is the first theatre in India? ›

The first cinemas. India's first purpose-built cinema hall, Elphinstone Picture Palace in Kolkata, was established in 1907 by Jamshedji Framji Madan, a pioneer of Indian film production. The compact hall, which over time changed its name from Minerva to Chaplin, screened Hollywood movies and attracted young audiences.

What is the oldest cinema in UK? ›

The Electric is a cinema in Birmingham, England. It opened in Station Street in 1909, showing its first silent film on 27 December of that year, and as of 2022 is thought to be the oldest working cinema in the country. It predates its namesake, the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill, London, by around two months.

What's the oldest cinema in England? ›

Duke of York's, Brighton

This magnificent, Grade II-listed picturehouse, the oldest purpose-built cinema in Britain, according to the Cinema Theatre Association, is one of very few UK picturehouses to have been in continuous cinematic use throughout its lifetime.

Who made the first film? ›

Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)

The world's earliest surviving motion-picture film, showing actual consecutive action is called Roundhay Garden Scene. It's a short film directed by French inventor Louis Le Prince. While it's just 2.11 seconds long, it is technically a movie.

When did movies get color? ›

The first color negative films and corresponding print films were modified versions of these films. They were introduced around 1940 but only came into wide use for commercial motion picture production in the early 1950s.

Who made the first color movie? ›

More than a century after it was made, archivists from the National Media Museum in the UK have discovered the world's oldest motion picture filmed in color, from 1902. The film, made by inventor Edward Raymond Turner, features images of his pets and what archivists believe are his three children playing outside.

How many movies exist? ›

Though the number isnt known, it has been estimated that there are approximately 500,000 movies (or, narrative fiction feature-length, theatrical-cinema films) currently in existence.

What is the purpose of cinema? ›

Cinema, which is used to educate people, as well as to entertain, influence and direct them, is accepted and used as the most important cultural conveyor of the 21st century. Cinema has the feature of reflecting the social, political and cultural changes and of contributing to reconstruction of reality.

What is first show in theatre? ›

The first night of a theatrical show actually is called “Opening Night”. A new film or television show is called “A Premiere”.

Who opened the first movie theater? ›

In July of 1896, in New Orleans, Louisiana, William Rock and Walter Wainwright converted a vacant store into the first storefront theatre that was dedicated to showing films. It was called the Vitascope Hall and although it only showed films for two months it met the popular demand at the time.

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