The Dawn of Commercial Cinema

The Dawn of Commercial Cinema


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On 28 December 1895 the Lumière brothers, pioneers of modern film, broadcast motion pictures to a paying audience for the first time in history. As a result, this date has forever been associated with the dawn of the cinematic age, and the immense change that this technology has brought into our lives.

These Frenchmen, August and Louis, did not invent moving film but took it to a level where it could be used as a means of popular entertainment for the first time.

For generations, Drake's Island, situated just outside of Plymouth harbour, had been owned by the Ministry of Defence. Recently, however, this island bastion has gone into private ownership. In this documentary Bob King, the gatekeeper of Drake's Island, gives Dan an exclusive tour of this extremely-militarised scrap of land.

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Film finding its feet

Prolific American inventor Thomas Edison had already developed a “Kinetoscope” for viewing moving pictures, but the problem with this “peep-show” device was that it could only be looked into by one person at a time.

Thomas Edison in 1922.

The Lumières had been in the burgeoning photographic business since the early 188os, but when they inherited it upon the retirement of their father they decided to take it into a new and ambitious direction.

In their small factory in Lyon they developed numerous technologies essential for a working film camera, most importantly film perforations, the carefully punched holes on the side of black physical film. In 1892 a French writer called Léon Bouly stumbled across the idea and preliminary designs for what he called a “Cinematograph.”

The main difference between this and Edison’s machine was that it also contained a projector, allowing numerous people to view a moving film at a time. Short on money and real technical know-how, however, Bouly sold his rights to the name and design to the Lumières, who then set about making his dream into a reality.

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Vision of the Lumières

In February 1893 the brothers successfully patented their own vastly improved version of the Cinematograph, and managed to take their first moving picture, Sortie de l’usine Lumière de Lyon, showed workers leaving their factory, within two years.

After a successful public screening of the film in the world’s first cinema in the south of France, they realised that there were huge profits to be made by going into payed screenings.

After a successful advertising campaign the world’s first commerical screening took place in the Grand Café Boulevard des Capuchines in Paris, where the Lumières showcased their first ten films to an admiring audience.

Each film was around 17 meters long, lasted less than a minute and had to be hand-cranked through a projector, but their reception was one of astonished delight. At the great Paris Exhibition of 1900 the cinematograph was one of the main attractions, and the brothers took their invention all over the world, attracting fascinated crowds.

Postcard of the Paris Exhibition (or L’Exposition Universelle), 1900. (Credit: Paris-16).

The age of cinema had begun, and by 1906 feature films of an hour long were possible as the technology’s potential exploded into life.


Monroe Avenue Commercial Buildings

The Monroe Avenue Commercial Buildings, also known as the Monroe Block, is a historic district located along a block-and-a-half stretch at 16-118 Monroe Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, just off Woodward Avenue at the northern end of Campus Martius. The district was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1974 [2] and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. [1] The thirteen original buildings were built between 1852 and 1911 and ranged from two to five stories in height. [2] The National Theatre, built in 1911, is the oldest surviving theatre in Detroit, a part of the city's original theatre district of the late 19th century, and the sole surviving structure from the original Monroe Avenue Commercial Buildings historic period. [3] [4]


1. Kubrick Tried to Buy Alien Insurance

Just before NASA’s Mariner 4 spacecraft passed Mars in July 1965, a worried Kubrick attempted to take out an insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London—in case the discovery of extraterrestrial life ruined the plot he was then working on with science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. “How the underwriters managed to compute the premium, I can’t imagine,” Clarke wrote wonderingly, 𠇋ut the figure they quoted was slightly astronomical and the project was dropped. Stanley decided to take his chances with the universe.” In the end, Mariner’s pictures showed a harsh, cratered, moon-like surface, which immediately tamped down the hope that intelligent life—or indeed, any life—might exist on that planet.

Arthur Clarke, author of �: A Space Odyssey.’ (Credit: Sipa/AP Photo)


The Dawn of Commercial Cinema - History

"this was the first attempt at the formation of a camera obscura, an instrument that has bestowed such incalculable benefits on humanity" .

This text will examine that entire history, from the pinhole image to the screen. Our purpose is to provide the most thorough, exhaustive and sweeping view of every component, which makes up the medium of film and to give life and sustenance to it in the process.

Chronologically presented, THE HISTORY OF THE DISCOVERY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY encompasses an historical and factual re-creation of it's own, combining all of the properties of cinematography and the persons responsible for their discovery or invention, and linking those pieces together into an ever unfolding story. The actual vision that many of these personalities had during their involvement in this fascinating process of creativity, production and improvement is astounding.

They gave their first private film show in March 1895, and in December they began public showings at the Grand Café in Paris. These were almost immediately popular, and in 1896 the Lumière's converted a room at the café into the world's first cinema theatre. The Cinématographe spread rapidly through Europe, and in 1896 it was imported into the United States.


Indian Cinema

India has one of the oldest and largest film industries in the world. It was in early 1913 that an Indian film received a public screening. The film was Raja Harischandra. Its director, Dadasaheb Phalke is now remembered through a life-time achievement award bestowed by the film industry in his name. At that point of time it was really hard to arrange somebody to portray the role of females. Among the middle classes, that association of acting with the loss of virtue, female modesty, and respectability has only recently been put into question.

While a number of other film-makers, working in several Indian languages, pioneered the growth and development of Indian cinema, the studio system began to emerge in the early 1930s. Its most successful early film was Devdas (1935), whose director, P.C. Barua also appeared in the lead role. The Prabhat Film Company, established by V. G. Damle, Shantaram, S. Fatehlal, and two other men in 1929, also achieved its first success around this time. Damle and Fatehlal's Sant Tukaram (1936), made in Marathi was the first Indian film to gain international recognition.

The social films of V. Shantaram, more than anything else, paved the way for an entire set of directors who took it upon themselves to interrogate not only the institutions of marriage, dowry, and widowhood, but the grave inequities created by caste and class distinctions. Some of the social problems received their most unequivocal expression in Achhut Kanya ("Untouchable Girl", 1936), a film directed by Himanshu Rai of Bombay Talkies. The film portrays the travails of a Harijan girl, played by Devika Rani, and a Brahmin boy, played by Ashok Kumar.

The next noteworthy phase of Hindi cinema is associated with personalities such as Raj Kapoor, Bimal Roy, and Guru Dutt. The son of Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor created some of the most admired and memorable films in Hindi cinema.

Awaara (The Vagabond, 1951), Shri 420 (1955), and Jagte Raho (1957) were both commercial and critical successes. Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zamin, which shows the influence of Italian neo-realism, explored the hard life of the rural peasantry under the harshest conditions. In the meantime, the Hindi cinema had seen the rise of its first acknowledged genius, Guru Dutt, whose films critiqued the conventions of society and deplored the conditions which induce artists to relinquish their inspiration. From Barua's Devdas (1935) to Guru Dutt's Sahib, Bibi aur Gulam,the motif of "predestined love" looms large: to many opponents, a mawkish sentimentality characterizes even the best of the Hindi cinema before the arrival of the new or alternative Indian cinema in the 1970s.

It is without doubt that under the influence of the Bengali film-makers like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, and Mrinal Sen, the Indian cinema, not only in Hindi, also began to take a somewhat different turn in the 1970s against the tide of commercial cinema, characterized by song-and-dance routines, insignificant plots, and family dramas. Ghatak went on to serve as Director of the Film and Television School at Pune, from where the first generation of a new breed of Indian film-makers and actors - Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, and Om Puri among the latter was to emerge.

These film-makers, such as Shyam Benegal, Ketan Mehta, Govind Nihalani, and Saeed Mirza, exhibited a different aesthetic and political sensibility and were inclined to explore the caste and class contradictions of Indian society, the nature of oppression suffered by women, the dislocations created by industrialism and the migration from rural to urban areas, the problem of landlessness, the impotency of ordinary democratic and constitutional procedures of redress, and so on.

The well-liked Hindi cinema is characterized by important changes too numerous to receive more than the slightest mention. The song-and-dance routine is now more systematized, more regular in its patterns the 'other', whether in the shape of the terrorist or the unalterable villain, has a more gloomy presence the nation-state is more fixated in its demands on our loyalties and curtsy the Indian Diaspora is a larger presence in the Indian imagination and so on. These are only some considerations: anyone wishing to discover the world of Indian cinema should also replicate on its presence in Indian spaces, its relation to vernacular art forms and mass art.

The Indian film industry, famously known as Bollywood, is the largest in the world, and has major film studios in Mumbai (Bombay), Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Between them, they turn out more than 1000 films a year to hugely appreciative audiences around the world. For nearly 50 years, the Indian cinema has been the central form of entertainment in India, and with its increased visibility and success abroad, it won't be long until the Indian film industry will be well thought-out to be its western counterpart- Hollywood. Mainstream commercial releases, however, continue to dominate the market, and not only in India, but wherever Indian cinema has a large following, whether in much of the British Caribbean, Fiji, East and South Africa, the U.K., United States, Canada, or the Middle East.

India is well known for its commercial cinema, better known as Bollywood. In addition to commercial cinema, there is also Indian art cinema, known to film critics as "New Indian Cinema" or sometimes "the Indian New Wave" (see the Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema). Many people in India plainly call such films as "art films" as opposed to mainstream commercial cinema. From the 1960s through the 1980s, the art film or the parallel cinema was usually government-aided cinema.

Commercial cinema is the most popular form of cinema in India. Ever since its inception the commercial Indian movies have seen huge following. Commercial or popular cinema is made not only in Hindi but also in many other regional languages of East and South India. Let's look at some of the general conventions of commercial films in India. Commercial films, in whatever languages they are made, tend to be quite long (approx three hours), with an interval. Another important feature of commercial cinema in India is music.

India is home to one of the largest film industries in the world. Every year thousands of movies are produced in India. Indian film industry comprises of Hindi films, regional movies and art cinema. The Indian film industry is supported mainly by a vast film-going Indian public, though Indian films have been gaining increasing popularity in the rest of the world, especially in countries with large numbers of emigrant Indians.


Georges Lautner obituary

Since the dawn of cinema, France has simultaneously and uninterruptedly produced good mainstream movies and arthouse films. Georges Lautner, who has died aged 87, unabashedly claimed that the almost 50 films he directed from 1958 to 1992 belong to the former category. Lautner's mainly cops-and-robbers movies were among the most popular films ever made in France.

"I didn't want glory or to make masterpieces but popular films that would please the greatest number," he once explained. "International recognition didn't interest me. I was passionate at what I did with my faithful team. We made the films we wanted as quickly as possible. But with time, my commercial films appear almost intellectual."

Lautner's underestimated films were never invited to Cannes until, in 2012, the festival put together a belated "Homage to Georges Lautner". His death prompted President François Hollande to declare that his films had "become part of the cinematic heritage of our country". Some of them also accrued the epithet "cult", in particular Les Tontons Flingueurs (1963), rendered variously in English as Monsieur Gangster or Crooks in Clover (literally The Killer Uncles). Barely a few weeks before Lautner died, a street in Nantes was named Rue des Tontons Flingueurs, because of one mention of a character called Lulu la Nantaise, evoked by Bernard Blier in a hilarious scene in which a group of gangsters get blotto around a kitchen table.

The scène de la cuisine is among the most celebrated in France, the dialogue of which many filmgoers know by heart, as well as other lines written by Michel Audiard, a master of witty and biting French argot. One line in the film, "Les cons ça ose tout. C'est même à ça qu'on les reconnaît" ("Idiots dare everything. That's how we recognise them"), spoken by Lino Ventura, has become part of the French lexicon, in roughly the same way that British audiences still appreciate "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!" from Carry on Cleo.

Apart from a justifiably forgotten thriller, Presumed Dangerous (1990), with Robert Mitchum in a supporting role, Lautner's only English-language film was the bizarre Road to Salina (1970) starring Mimsy Farmer, Robert Walker Jr and Rita Hayworth, shot mostly in the Canary Islands. Quentin Tarantino used a song from the film in Kill Bill Volume 2.

Lautner was born in Nice, the son of a Viennese jeweller and aviator, and Marie Louise Vittore who, as Renée Saint-Cyr, was a film star, later appearing in 11 of her son's movies. At the age of seven, Lautner went to Paris when his mother started her film career, and discovered cinema. After leaving school, he began to get odd jobs in the studios. An apprenticeship as assistant director led to his first films as director.

After three lukewarm dramas, Lautner found his forte with Le Monocle Noir (The Black Monocle, 1961), freely adapted from the memoirs of Colonel Rémy, a secret agent during the second world war. Lautner turned it into a comedy-thriller starring Paul Meurisse as a spy known as "the Monocle", because he covered his one blind eye with a black monocle. Meurisse's delightfully eccentric, tongue-in-cheek performance was repeated in equally successful sequels: L'Oeil du Monocle (The Eye of the Monocle, 1962) and Le Monocle Rit Jaune (The Monocle, 1964).

Although Lautner continued to make hit parodic comedies during the 1960s, such as Les Tontons Flingueurs and Les Barbouzes (The Great Spy Chase, 1964), he occasionally strayed into drama. In fact, his favourite film was Le Septième Juré (The Seventh Juror, 1962) about a married man (Blier) who kills a girl spurning his advances. When her disreputable boyfriend is charged with the crime, he finds himself on the jury. Lautner handles the twists of the plot and the ironic ending with aplomb.

The murder melodrama Galia (1966) had a fairly profitable release in the UK and the US, mainly because of the disrobed presence of the ex-model Mireille Darc, who starred in a dozen of Lautner's films. In fact, the director tried to keep the same team from film to film: the actors Darc, Ventura, Blier, Francis Blanche and Jean Lefebvre writer Audiard and cinematographer Maurice Fellous.

"What interests him is to have good actors and a good writer," Fellous remarked. "He would say: 'If you make me a beautiful picture, you're going to take an hour. That's money I won't have for a better actor for the second or third role.' But he would add: 'In each of my movies, you will have one sequence to have your fun with.'"

There were plenty of sequences the cinematographer could have fun with in lively cop dramas such as Le Pacha (Pasha, 1968), in which Jean Gabin brings his dominating presence to bear as a world-weary police inspector Il Était une Fois un Flic (Flic Story, 1971) and Flic ou Voyou (Cop or Hood, 1979), the latter the first of five Lautner films starring Jean-Paul Belmondo.

One of them, Le Professionnel (The Professional, 1981) – Lautner's biggest box-office success of the 80s – was an entertaining action movie with an energetic Belmondo as a secret agent. Lautner's final feature was L'Inconnu dans la Maison (Stranger in the House, 1992) in which a subdued Belmondo plays an ageing drunken lawyer investigating a murder.

Lautner's wife, Caroline, whom he met in 1949, died almost 20 years ago. He is survived by his daughter, Alice, and son, Thomas.

Georges Lautner, film director, born 24 January 1926 died 22 November 2013


21 Century Success

With the advances in technology, studios became more comfortable with 3-D technology. Disney released its 2005 animated feature "Chicken Little in 3-D" in almost 100 theaters in the United States. The year 2006 saw the release of "Superman Returns: An IMAX 3-D Experience," which included 20 minutes of 2-D footage that had been "upconverted" to 3-D, a process that allowed filmmakers and studios to create 3-D movies using film shot in 2-D. One of the first movies to undergo this conversion process was 1993’s "The Nightmare Before Christmas," which was re-released in a 3-D version in October 2006.

Over the next three years, studios released a steady stream of 3-D movies, particularly computer animated films. But the movie that changed the game was James Cameron's "Avatar," a 2009 sci-fi epic that utilized what Cameron had learned about 3-D filmmaking during the making of "Ghosts of the Abyss." "Avatar" became the highest-grossing movie in film history and the first film to gross more than $2 billion worldwide.

With the unprecedented box office success of "Avatar"and its groundbreaking technical advancements, 3-D was no longer viewed as a gimmick for schlocky movies. Hoping to achieve the same success, other studios ramped up their production of 3-D movies, sometimes converting movies already shot in 2-D into 3-D (such as 2010's "Clash of the Titans"). By 2011, multiplexes all over the world had converted some or all of their auditoriums to 3-D theaters. The majority of theaters used projection methods developed by visual effects company RealD to do this.


LatinX Representation

There are even some Oscar categories LatinX people have yet to fill almost 100 years after the Academy Awards were established. It wouldn’t be until the mid 20th century that LatinX cinematic artists would gain prominent attention or be given opportunities to bask in the cinematic spotlight, and sadly, persisted to be largely ignored until very recently.

During one of the most racist time periods in American history, actor Anthony Quinn became the first Latino American to be nominated for an Oscar after earning one in 1952 for Viva Zapata! in the Best Supporting Actor category. In that same film, white actor Marlon Brando played famous Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata . With all his sheer talent, Quinn also became the first LatinX actor to win an Academy Award after earning another nomination in the same category in 1956 for the Vincent Van Gogh biography Lust for Life . A Mexican-born actor wasn’t nominated for the same category until 56 years later with Demian Bichir ’s nomination for A Better Life in 2012.

For some odd reason, the mid-fifties was a recognizable period for LatinX actors, because Latina American actress Katy Jurado was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1954 for Broken Lance . Although they would begin to be shortly after, there were largely no commercially or critically recognized LatinX performers until that point. The large gap from the Best Actor award nominations followed for the Best Actress ones too, unfortunately .

A Latina actor wasn’t nominated again until 2006 with Adriana Barraza ’s performance in Alejandro G. Inarritu ’s, who would go on to be a revolutionary trailblazer for Latin-American Cinema, film Babel , which also starred Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett . Latina actors waited all the way until 2002 to reach the Best Lead Actress category when Salma Hayek was nominated for her performance as Frida Kahlo in Frida . She, unfortunately, did not win. In the history of the Academy Awards, only eight LatinX actors have been nominated for best lead and supporting roles. Fortunately, many LatinX performers gained much deserved international acclaim, but Hollywood continued to ignore them for an entire century.

The tail end of the 20th century ushered in a new wave of LatinX talent, with stars like Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, who were able to penetrate Hollywood stereotypes and create in-depth characters and stories from a LatinX perspective that dazzled American audiences, in opposition to a general disregard for LatinX talent, or Latin actors being used as devices for a larger part of a cis-white man or woman’s story. Now that on-screen LatinX was beginning to change, there was a difficult battle brewing with off-screen LatinX artists that wouldn’t burst out of its bubble until just fourteen years ago.


The Lumière brothers move away from cinema

Auguste and Louis continued to work on technical developments, and in 1900 devised a camera which took large-format 75mm films. By 1905, however, the Lumière brothers withdrew from the cinema business. They worked instead on inventing the first successful photographic colour process—the Lumière Autochrome—in 1907. Louis also worked on a process of stereoscopic cinematography.

The two brothers lived long enough to be feted as pioneers of the cinema within their lifetimes. As Louis stated:

… on December 28, 1895, was really born the expression: ‘I have been to a movie.’


10. Dawn of the Dead almost featured a darker ending.

During production on Dawn of the Dead, George Romero told Rolling Stone writer Chet Flippo that the film had, in Flippo’s words “no beginning and two endings.” Romero explained that this was because he was working “moment to moment” on the film. He eventually figured the beginning of the film out, of course, and went with an ending in which Peter and Francine fight their way out of the mall and onto the roof, where they escape in the helicopter. So, what was the other ending?

On the film’s commentary track, George and Chris Romero and Tom Savini all discuss a much darker concept to close the film, in which Peter would have shot himself (which he contemplates doing in the final cut) while Francine would have leapt into the spinning blades of the helicopter, mirroring one of the most famous zombie deaths earlier in the film. That ending would have followed in the footsteps of Night of the Living Dead’s dark ending, but Romero ultimately decided on something lighter.

Still, the original plan didn’t go to waste: Savini had already made a cast of actress Gaylen Ross’s head to use for Francine’s death scene, so he repurposed it—with the help of some makeup and a wig—for the famous exploding head shot during the housing project raid.

Additional Sources:
Shock Value by Jason Zinoman (The Penguin Press, 2011)
Dawn of the Dead DVD Commentary (Anchor Bay, 2004)


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