Belton Chapter 1 The Emergence of Cinema as an Institution


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Belton Chapter 1 The Emergence of Cinema as an Institution

  1. 1. The Emergence of Cinema as an Institution Belton, Chapter 1
  2. 2. The Cathedral of the Motion Picture• Movies enjoyed the unique status as the premier entertainment activity for the majority of Americans; akin to national pastime.• Enjoyment came not just films themselves but also from the surroundings in which they were presented. – Movie palaces built between 1910 and 1930 resembled gigantic cathedrals.
  3. 3. The Cathedral of the Motion Picture• The cult status of films also extended to those who appeared in them – Movie fans transformed actors and actresses into stars, making them objects of intense fascination• Between 1929 and 1949, roughly 80-90 million Americans went to the movies every week – Going to the movies became a way in which people passed their leisure time – The cinema had become an institution—and integral feature of the experience of being a twentieth-century American
  4. 4. Developing Systems: Society and Technology• Cinema as an institution: economic, societal, technologi cal, and psychological – As an economic institution, cinema is designed to make money; it is a complex organization of producers, distributors, and exhibitors – Developed basic technology and established various systems designed to ensure that films return a profit to the industry
  5. 5. Developing Systems: Society and Technology• Cinema as an institution: economic, societal, technological, and psychological• As a social institution, it provided an appropriate form of social contact for the American populace – Became a modern forum of leisure-time communal activity
  6. 6. Developing Systems: Society and Technology• Cinema as an institution: economic, societal, technological, and psychological• As a technological institution, it became dependent on the success of products such as cameras, celluloid, electricity, microphones, projectors, speakers, screens, etc.
  7. 7. Developing Systems: Society and Technology• Cinema as an institution: economic, societal, technological, and psychological• As a psychological institution, its purpose is to encourage the moviegoing habit by providing the kind of entertainment that working- and middle- class Americans want
  8. 8. The Kinetoscope • The origins of cinema lie in the development of mass communication technology – Culmination of an age that saw invention of: the telegraph, photography, the typewriter, the telephone, the phonograph, roll film, etc. • The Kinetoscope transformed the face of late nineteenth-century culture
  9. 9. The Kinetoscope• Photography and the motion picture introduced and institutionalized a new, modern conception of time that would be marketed in the forms of photos, records, or movies and could be infinitely re-experienced.• The cinema emerged as a product that audiences could consume and which functioned as a window for other mass-produced goods.• Edison kinetoscope films 1894-1896
  10. 10. Mass Production, Mass Consumption• Upon advent of projection, motion pictures became the ultimate form of mass consumption• Audiences came to see the technological marvel of movies and the magic made possible by photography and cameras• The viewer’s relationship with the image was no longer private but suddenly became public
  11. 11. Mass Production, Mass Consumption• Although film audiences consisted of all socioeconomic classes, the cost of admission tended to exclude the lower classes because they could only afford to attend occasionally• Motion pictures appealed to audiences as attractions, a series of acts within the large act of motion pictures• Pre-1906 cinema stressed showing rather than telling but by 1908, 96% of films told stories
  12. 12. Mass Production, Mass Consumption• The kinds of films shown were: – Actualities (documentaries, views of famous or distant places) – Recorded vaudeville acts – Excerpts from popular plays – Phantom rides (films shot from the front of moving vehicles) – Trick films (used multiple film techniques to perform tricks or acts of “magic”)
  13. 13. Nickelodeon: A Collective Experience• Beginning in 1905, theatres devoted exclusively to showing films began springing up in cities across the country – They were known as “nickelodeons” because the price of admission was initially only a nickel – These small, 200-seat theatres were quickly installed in or near shopping districts – The low cost of admission and the brief show times attracted the working classes
  14. 14. Nickelodeon: A Collective Experience
  15. 15. Spectacle and Storytelling• The Camera as Recorder vs Narrator – While early American cinema had been exhibitionist in nature and satisfied with showing attractions, subsequent (post-1908) cinema became more intent on the perfection of narrative skills. – Edwin S. Porter’s The Life of an American Fireman (1903)• Later cinema actively narrated events, shaping the audience’s perception of them – The editing was used to contribute to the psychological development of characters and to explain their own motivation
  16. 16. Spectacle and Storytelling• With the emergence of a cinema of narration, classical Hollywood cinema took one step further toward the institutionalization of the cinema as an American pastime• Multiple-reel “feature” foreign films were showcased in large theatres that prompted American producers to release their own films – D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  17. 17. Spectacle and Storytelling• D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) – An intricate 3-hour-long narrative held audiences spellbound – Its success transformed the nature of American film production and exhibition – Also notorious for its racist agenda, illustrating the enormous power of the motion picture medium to communicate ideological arguments
  18. 18. The Movie Palace • Feature-length films were accompanied by a dramatic change in motion picture presentation as nickelodeons gave way to luxurious movie palaces • The era of movie palaces began in 1913 with the 2460-seat Regent, managed by showman S.L. “Roxy” Rothapfel – Featured an organ, an orchestra, a chorus and/or opera singers, ushers, and a lavishly decorated gilt interior
  19. 19. An Evolving Institution• Today’s filmmakers draw on essentially the same set of stylistic practices and narrative techniques as those forged by Griffith and other during the period in which the fundamental elements of the feature film were established• The cinematic institution of Hollywood past has disappeared, however, slowly transforming itself after the 1950s into a new, institution designed to serve the different needs to contemporary audiences and an ever-changing modern motion picture marketplace