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Developments in Cinema

The cinema industry rose from a novelty in selected large cities to its status as a multibillion industry attracting its fair share of publicity and controversies. It is arguably one of the greatest modern contemporary art forms to have immensely influenced the cultural fabric of the 21st century. It has developed its niche as the primary source of entertainment, education, propaganda and scientific research. As an art form, its history spans for over 100 years with the first film dating back in 1895. Originally, it was formed from fusion of theater and dance with the intention to provide cheap entertainment to the masses. This report looks into the significant developments that influenced and shaped the film industry including key individuals who influenced the art form.

The development of cinema can chronologically be grouped into three phases. The first phase is the Silent Cinema from 1895 to 1930, and then came the Sound Cinema from 1930 to 1960 and lastly the Modern Cinema from 1960 to date. The initial development, during the industrial revolution era, took place sporadically and in a similar fashion in different geographic areas. Nevertheless, after the First World War the American cinema industry played a dominant role in determining the direction the sector should take. The French, German, America and British can be credited as the pioneers of cinema; however, the Americans and the French were responsible for exporting it to other countries and its artistic development.

The Silent Cinema era was marked by rapid expansion and growth. The industry grew as a novelty but gained rapid acceptability worldwide hence attracting large audiences’ and displacing the other conventional forms of entertainment. Thomas Edison inventions in 1893 of the Kinetoscope (first picture motion camera) and the celluloid shaped the early years of cinema. During the first thirty years, sound and image were not synchronized; hence, the films were silent. However, there were occasional sound effects and commentaries. The French, German, America and British can be credited as the pioneers of cinema as an art; however, the Americans and the French were responsible for exporting it and its artistic development. Before the end of the Second World War, America had fully dominated the film industry through Hollywood. However, there were success films like Quo Vadis? (1913) from Italy and powerful sagas of Victor Sjostrom from Sweden which did not last for long. Hollywood films appealed because they had good narratives and better effects. They also “poached” technical experts and artists from other countries. For instance, Sjostrom and Stiller were lured from Sweden. One of the most talented artists in this era was Friedrich Wilhelm (1888-1913).

The sound cinema can be characterized by the introduction of synchronized sound dialogue. The revolution emerged in America and then spread to other regions of the world. It was first aired on 6 October 1927 by Warner Bros during the premier of The Jazz Singer. The sound on disc technology was replaced by a more reliable and simple sound on film technology in 1930, which led to the emergence of the studio system mainly for film production. Later on, synchronized music was developed in mid 1930. Most of the films produced during this phase depended on the existing political situation. For instance, the Indian film after 1945 was filled with themes on decolonization and the struggle for self-independence. Introduction of sound saw a shift in the fortunes of Hollywood dominance. This is because of the existing economic depression where there was a drop in exports due to language barriers and patent issues. Later on its fortunes resumed after regulations on copyrights were passed. One of the leading directors during sound age was Josef Von Sternberg (1894-1969) who was responsible for producing the film The Docks of New York.

The modern cinema age had gradual developments. The most significant development was the breakdown of Hollywood studio providing an avenue for new companies to emerge like the American International Pictures. In Eastern Europe, there was a boom in cinema especially in the 1960. The Cuban revolution sparked the emergence of the cinema culture in Latin America. The industry became more liberalized, and there was a worldwide call for balance of minority and majority culture. This was mainly influenced by the civil right movements of the 1960s. In addition, industries became more privatized with little state control. Michelengo Antonioni was one of the directors that influenced the modern age through his style. His most notable movie was Red Desert (1964). The current trend is the use of computer-generated effects in film production especially in the area of 3D, for instance Avarter by Dream works Animations.

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