Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Cinema
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Cinema

This article is about the art and business of motion pictures. For cinema as a place where motion pictures are shown, see movie theater.
This article should be merged with Film.

The cinema is a field that encompasses motion pictures as an art form, or as part of the entertainment industry. A single cinema presentation is usually called a film, movie, or motion picture. Other names include picture show, photoplay, and (colloquially) flick. Because film historically has been the primary medium for displaying moving images, academics often refer to this field as the study of film.

Table of contents
1 History of cinema
2 Development of cinema presentations
3 The motion picture industry
4 See also
5 External links

History of cinema

Main article: History of cinema

The earliest use of moving pictures was an outgrowth of magic lanterns and similar optical devices, which could be used to display a sequence of still images in such a way that the eye would perceive the images as being in motion. Naturally, the images used in these devices had to be carefully prepared and selected to achieve the desired effect. By using pictures that were largely similar, but with slight differences, the presenter could communicate the effect of motion to the viewer. The underlying principle remains the basis for animation as a cinematic genre.

With the development of photography, and particularly of celluloid film, it became possible to record moving pictures as well. The use of film also made it more feasible to use a projection system to display images for audiences. Earlier devices had generally depended on the individual looking into the device to see the pictures, and were therefore usually limited to a single user at a time. Among the inventors who contributed significantly to the development of the cinema are the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere, as well as Thomas Edison (although the real inventor in Edison’s laboratory was an employee, W.K. Dickson, who later went into competition with him). The last decade of the 19th century saw the production of numerous machines that could record moving pictures and project them onto a screen.

Public displays of moving pictures soon became part of expositions and touring performances. Vaudeville and variety shows incorporated moving pictures into their lineups. Given these connections, quite a few cinema pioneers were magicians or similar performers, and the earliest special effects often focused on optical tricks.

Development of cinema presentations

The cinema was initially purely a visual art, and the moving pictures came to be known colloquially as movies. See silent film. However, presenters found it useful to provide a commentator who could narrate the action and fill in dialogue between characters. Within a few years, films began to include subtitles that could display dialogue when the actors on screen "spoke". This rendered the function of a commentator largely unnecessary.

Rather than leave the audience in silence, theater owners often replaced the commentator by hiring musicians to accompany the presentation. The most common approach was to hire a pianist or organist if the theater had an instrument available. The music to be played was supposed to fit the mood of the film at any given moment.

Later technological improvements allowed filmmakers to create soundtracks synchronized with the action on the screen. The soundtrack can be recorded separately from shooting the film, but for live-action pictures many parts of the soundtrack are usually recorded simultaneously. Sound films were initially known as "talking pictures", or talkies.

The final major step in the development of cinema was the introduction of color. While the addition of sound to film revolutionized the medium, quickly driving out silent movies and theater musicians, color was adopted more gradually. As color processes improved, more and more movies were filmed in color, and today the use of color is virtually universal. Unlike photography, where black-and-white film is still preferred for some purposes, there is little reason not to use color in movies. In the rare exceptions, such as the Steven Spielberg movie Schindler's List, the choice usually has to do with other artistic reasons.

The motion picture industry

Even before the widespread use of sound and color, simple black-and-white movies quickly gained a hold on the public imagination. The making and showing of motion pictures became a source of potential profit within a few years after the process was invented. In this way, the cinema eventually contributed to the decline of the vaudeville world it came from. Instead, motion pictures became a separate industry, with dedicated theaters and companies formed specifically to produce and distribute films.

The first theater designed exclusively for cinema opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1905. Thousands of such theaters were built or converted from existing facilities within a few years. In the United States, these theaters came to be known as nickelodeons, because admission typically cost a nickel (5 cents).

In early advertising and promotion, "coming movie attraction" glass slides in the Lantern 3.25" x 4" - 82.5 mm x 102 mm format were produced to be distributed to individual theaters for projection showing a week or so in advance of a film's arrival. These early promotional artifacts, with art work similar to the more common printed poster paper, could be considered advertising precursors to later storyboards and commercials. The Brenograph projection systems were technically similar to Lantern format, but in a much larger 4" x 5" - 102 mm x 127 mm size glass slide. The larger format and more powerful throws were intended to provide a luminous ambiance to larger theatre environments, especially those of the Movie Palaces. Special designs were produced for curtain arrangements, proscenium features, and ceilings, including "scudding clouds" facilitated by the standard double throw which allowed inventive dissolves and fades by a talented projectionist.

The popularity of the cinema has made motion pictures the largest industry in entertainment. The visual element of cinema needs no translation, giving the motion picture a universal power of communication. As a result, popular movies can become worldwide attractions, especially with the addition of dubbing or translated subtitles to communicate the dialogue. Motion picture actors can become major celebrities and command huge fees for their performances. Already by 1917, Charlie Chaplin had a contract that called for an annual salary of 1 million dollars.

The cost of hiring star performers, along with expenses related to technological advancements, has led cinema production to concentrate under the auspices of movie studios. In the United States, much of the industry is now centered around Hollywood, California. Other regional centers exist in many parts of the world.

With modern technology, digital recording techniques have been applied to both the video and audio aspects of motion pictures. This has produced a gradual movement away from the medium of film.

See also

External links