Looking at the film industry as we now know it, it’s hard to imagine that America wasn’t always the film producing machine we see it as now. Yet, when we begin looking at all the technological advances that took place in film over time and the events which occurred during these periods, it was a complex journey. In the following essay we are going to discuss why I believe that the wars faced both foreign and domestic played the biggest factor in the American Film industry’s rise to dominance by the 1950s.
Birth of Film:
As with all things it’s probably best to start with the beginning; the birth of film. Eadweard Muybridge was hired in 1872 to capture images of a horse running to settle a debate as to whether all four feet of a horse were off the ground at the same time while trotting. Little did he know that by capturing these images he eventually would spark the invention of the kinetscope by Thomas Edison in the 1880s.
By the late 1890s movies could be projected onto a screen and audiences finally were able to attend public demonstrations. In 1905 the world's first nickelodeon devoted to film exhibition was opened in Pittsburgh, PA by Harry Davis. Nickelodeons (named for both the price of admission and the Greek word for “theater”) soon spread across the country, the number of nickelodeons reached around 8000 between 1907 and 1908, and by 1910 it was estimated that as many as 26 million Americans visited these theaters every week.
World War I:
From about 1910 American films had the largest share of all European countries except France, but eventually took over first place with the halt in European film production due to the war. The American film industry continued to flourish, serving as a morale booster for the nation, and many immigrants found employment within the industry, not only as nickelodeon owners but creative talent roles.
During this time film exhibition also changed from a short one reel program to full-length feature, with larger venues and higher prices. By 1922 talkies were introduced to film, marking the end of silent films and the Star System flourished. With not only each star under a contract but directors, as well as writers, studios were able typecast stars to a particular genre and through the distribution chain of their own theatres target these films geographically to targeted audiences.
Studios would practice “block booking’ and “blind bidding” with exhibitors. The practice involved requiring an...