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Published on September 7th, 2018 | by voxx


A Short History of Film

Sir Christopher Lee, Lon Chaney, Lon Chaney Jr., Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Christopher Nolan, Brad Pitt, Sir Patrick Stewart and perhaps the biggest name in modern film Tom Cruise. Actors, writers, producers and directors people who have become legends on the screen and off, people who have made reputations for themselves in both modern film and films of old. Whether they are playing Dracula, Sweeney Todd, Shakespeare or even directing the biggest blockbusters, these people are known as legends of the world of modern film. And there are a lot of films out there…

If you have the chance to look at IMDb, possibly the biggest movie database in the world, and select a year that a film is meant to be released, for example perhaps next year’s ‘IT: Chapter Two’you will see that there are in the region of around 10,000 films released per year, yet most of them don’t even get seen. However, if you look back to perhaps to 1939 (the year that ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was first released) there were only a few hundred films made. But film goes back even further than that. Those born in the early 21st century especially generally only see film as a new piece of media, but it isn’t; the question that now arises is, just how old is film media?

Well, the answer may surprise you. Is it 90 years old? Or possibly even 100 years old? No, film actually first started 130 years ago in 1888, by French illusionist and director Georges Méliès, who spent years of his early life creating and correcting the formula to make entertainment until finally he stumbled upon it, and thus film was born. However, it wasn’t well received by any patrons of early cinema. Most in the late 1800’s preferred to go to the theatre and see the latest play, and it wasn’t until a few years later that people, mostly in France, started to accept that film would be sticking in the modern world, and so his next film was released. But it wasn’t until 1902 and the release of his most famous film, ‘A Trip to the Moon’, that he started to become a household name, and thus millions more would start to come to terms with this new media.

As for when film would make the conversion between silent and sound, this wasn’t until the late 1920’s. At first, the conversion between the two was quite a difficult process that involves a microphone being inserted through the suit or dress. Having a microphone behind the camera, as boom mics weren’t quite invented yet, would involve a lot of microphones, volume adjustment and voice testing (that would’ve been a rigorous process), all of which can be seen in 2012’s Best Picture winner, ‘The Artist’.

Now, colour took a little longer still, and it also needed a bigger budget. It is little known that this year’s ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ cost a total of $374 million to make and produce, but over 90 years ago this would have been a lot cheaper. If you were to take 1927’s ‘Metropolis’ out of the equation, which cost 5 million Reichmarks (a currency that no longer exists), the most expensive film in the world would be worth billions today. Films back then would only cost thousands to make, which is still a lot of money if you were to involve modern inflation, but years later film started to get a lot more popular.

This is when awards enter the circuit. Enter the Academy Awards (or Oscars), perhaps the oldest and biggest awards in film. They first came around in 1928 – so yes, they are 90 years old. A lot of big names have won an Oscar, and some of the best films ever have a few Oscars to their name. For example, there are three that are tied for the most Oscar wins: Ben-Hur (1958), Titanic(1997) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), each having been awarded 11 Oscars.

Of course, it’s not just budget, reviews or awards that make you notice a film for all it’s worth, it’s also world records. For example, the first ever horror film, ‘Le Manoir de Diable’ (or by it’s English title ‘The Haunted Castle’), made in 1896, or maybe the first edgy film in the form of 1915’s ‘Birth of a Nation’, the first film that was banned from world cinema for its involvement in the Ku Klux Klan. Of course there have been many more that have been banned, but let’s not talk about them. Instead, let’s talk about money, sweet, sweet money. To bask in its glory is enough to make a poor man feel rich, but we seem to have gone away with ourselves then. Every movie requires money, as they need a budget to spend, but now it’s about how much a movie makes in the box-office. The highest grossing film is currently 2009’s ‘Avatar’, which made a total of $2.8 billion at the box-office, yet if you involve modern inflation that title would actually belong to 1939’s ‘Gone With the Wind’ that has a total of $3.6 billion.

So as you can see, film has a long and prosperous history filled with many blockbusters, a lot of likable actors and actresses past or present, and filled with a lot of starry eyes, by which we mean the audience. Film could and still can entertain anybody of any age or of any language, and so it has every right to be celebrated.

- By Corey Denford

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