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The Prince of Cinema !

Cinema, considered as the seventh art, is characterized by a film conveyed by a medium (tape, film, digital), to entertain an audience. This system works through a continuous or intermittent mechanism that creates the illusion of moving images. Cinema has become a real industry firmly rooted into popular culture. We note that today, May 4th, George Lucas' Star Wars saga, was dedicated to the film industry. The Grunge News team decided to look back at the history of this perticular art form and its integration into popular culture...

The film industry was born at the end of the 19th century. Later, the premises of what will become the 7th art appears. At the time, scientists invented mechanisms that utilized drawings representing a subject in different phases of a decomposed gesture, on several vignettes. The individual could view this succession of images through slits or with a rotating mirror. This gave life to the drawings and created an animation. This invention had been intended for scientific research aimed at decomposing the movements of animals or any phenomenon too fast for the human eye, meaning it ultimately had no commercial purpose.

However, the first works of the cinema were based on this research.

American Thomas Edison, creator of light bulbs and designer of the phonograph, embarked on this journey. Suffering from deafness during his adolescence, Jefferson never attended any concerts, making him want to keep a visual record of what he could see. To make his shots, he used 70 mm unperforated flexible tapes, which we will later call film. In 1888, he invented the kinetoscope. Created in the form of a wooden piece of furniture, the viewer leans over it and can individually view a succession of continuous images. This machine is revolutionary but it seems to be a counterfeit of the device of Louis Aimé Auguste Le Prince, the true inventor of cinema. The way Edison's kinetoscope worked only suggests just that.

Man watching a movie through a kinetoscope

Louis Aimé Auguste Le Prince had invented, in a contemporary way, the technological bases for recording and reproducing movements. On October 14, 1888, he shot the first film in history in his garden in England, in the suburbs of Leeds. The name being: "Roundhay Garden Scene". This film of 2 seconds for 20 images was recorded on Kodak film and displayed the director’s family.

Yet, the term “cinema” was truly born in 1891 by Edison, who went to patent the inventions originally created by Louis Aimé Auguste Le Prince. Edison mysteriously disappeared on September 16th, 1890 when he was going to the United States shortly afterwards to present his invention.

It was precisely in the early 1890s that Edison's workers had begun using a strip of celluloid film to capture moving images. It was then in May 1891, that the first public results of these experiments were presented, and Edison was then considered to be the inventor of cinematography. But in 1898, a lawsuit was brought against Edison to prove that Louis Aimé Auguste Le Prince was indeed the true inventor. The inventor of the phonograph claimed to be the one and only inventor of cinematography. Mr. Le Prince's son, Adolphe Le Prince, was not even able to present his father's cameras during the trial. Edison therefore won the case. He then reissued his patents and was considered (by the majority of the population, and still today) as the true inventor of cinema.

Following this, Edison had begun to organize public performances of his machines, particularly in Paris. There had been a worldwide race aiming to improve the kinetoscope technique, and it was Louis Lumière who won it. Thus began the story of the Lumière brothers.

One day, Antoine Lumière went to Paris to attend a demonstration of the kinetoscope. Representatives from Edison offered him a 30-centimeter sample of the perforated 35 mm film. He returned to Lyon, convinced that the market for recording machines was within reach and that money would be at stake. Antoine's goal was to create a mechanism that allowed films to be seen by a whole audience at the same time, and not just one person (which was the kinetoscope flaw). The Lumières brothers were required to reinvent Edison's “cinema” as he had previously filed patents, preventing anyone from obtaining it.

The brothers couldn't take back the perforated tapes from the creator of the kinetoscope because they would potentially risk being sued by Edison. As a result, they started working on another form of perforation on film strips, one that were more round and arranged laterally. Unfortunately for them, Edison's strips were still more efficient and were chosen by manufacturers worldwide.

In 1893, Edison opened Parlors Kinetoscopes in the United States: cinemas, where several devices were lined up to show a film that could be viewed for a fee. Thus came the birth of the film industry. Even if the tapes diffused by the kinetoscopes were in fact the first films viewable by the general public, it was the invention of the Lumière brothers, with both a camera and a projector, that seduced the wealthy individuals. This invention appeared as a further development of the kinetoscope and as a fatal competitor to films prior to its year of creation.

On 19 March 1895 the Lumière brothers broadcasted what is considered to be the first film on the big screen: "Leaving the Lumière's factory in Lyon".

The following year, in January 1896, one of the brothers' most popular films was released:

"The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station".

Legend has it that the first spectators to have seen it ran away, frightened at the idea of a train coming at them. Then the two brothers set up a series of paid screenings in Paris with the Indian Salon at the Grand Café. Cinema evolved with the invention of colour film. However, it should not be forgotten that from the end of the 19th century, Laurie Dickson (Edison's partner but also the first film director in history and the first actor in a film), coloured strips by hand, frame by frame. Incredible, right? The first one is a very short 20-second tape, where the dancer, Annabelle Moore, appears twirling around. This effect is still very successful today. This was the first appearance of colour applied to animated photography.

In 1901, a faster and more efficient method for colouring film appeared. Thanks to a red and green rotary filter, inventor Laurie Dickson was able to transform his final image into a color film. That's a first! Then, it was followed by the invention of kinemacolor in 1911, and then technicolor in 1915, which popularized color films. Cinema did not really take on colour until 1922 with the feature film “The Toll of the Sea” (using the Technicolor technique).

At the beginning of the 20th century, the film industry gradually switched to the United States, thus creating the great Hollywood studios. The 1930s marked the expansion of cinema in Europe and Asia, however, the Second World War slowed down this boom. In 1950, television accelerated technical innovations in cinemas, and young filmmakers made a name for themselves with so-called modern cinema. The more the years passed, the more this art diversified, for example with the arrival of documentary, experimental and low-budget films, but also with big productions and the first big successes such as "Jaws" by Steven Spielberg, or "Star Wars" by George Lucas.

The first ceremonies entirely dedicated to cinema even made their appearance with the Oscars ( May 16th1929) and the Cannes Film Festival (September 20th, 1946). The 1990s marked the arrival of digital technology and special effects.

Today, digital cinema is rooted in this industry. Now there are more and more huge worldwide hits that generate billions of dollars in profits, such as Harry Potter, Avengers, ... In terms of figures, cinema has always brought in a lot of money but in 2018, it has beaten all previous records with 96.8 billion receipts!

But with the arrival of streaming services like Netflix, series began to really popularize (originally only available on TV).

The film industry today includes large companies that manage most of the film market. The majors are the largest American production studios. There are currently 5 of them :

- Walt Disney Studios (see Disney article)

- Warner Bros Entertainment: founded in 1923 by the Warner brothers, naturalized Polish-American Jewish immigrants, one of the oldest film studios.

- Universal Studios: founded by 9 men in 1908 financed by Thomas Edison, even older than the previous one.

- Sony Pictures Entertainment: founded on the occasion of the purchase of Columbia Pictures studios for 5 billion dollars by Sony in 1989.

- Paramount Motion Pictures Group : the result of the merger in 1916 of the Famous Players, created in 1912 by Adolph Zukor, with the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company . He acquired Paramount Pictures Corporation, a small company that had been in existence since 1914.

Today, May 4th is the day to celebrate the Star Wars saga. The name of this day "May, the fourth" is related to the famous line "May the force be with you". The origins of this day are mysterious but theories exist...

One of these theories states that this celebration dates back to May 4, 1979. It was on this day that a page of advertising with the message "May the fourth be with you, Maggie" was allegedly purchased in the London Evening News to congratulate Margaret Thatcher on becoming Prime Minister.

Another theory explains that this international celebration would come from the fact that the creator of the saga, George Lucas, was born on May 14 and that the first 6 films were released in May.

Cinema is thus an art whose true origins would have been scorned by the inventor Thomas Edison. The first film in history was indeed directed by Louis Aimé Auguste Le Prince in 1888. From that year on, films rapidly evolved and cinema, or theaters as we know it today, was finally

born thanks to the Lumière brothers. This industry also gave rise to a host of new professions such as actors, scriptwriters, directors, etc. Cinema has become totally rooted in popular culture with the creation of stars in Hollywood in the names of prestigious actors and directors, with days dedicated to sagas (as with Star Wars) and film celebrations (César, Oscar, etc).


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