The history of world cinema dates back to 1895 when the first motion picture was produced and exhibited in Paris and since then cinema has never looked back. Recently in 1995, it completed a hundred years and this occasion was celebrated all over the world with much pomp and ceremony. Cinema originated in its raw form only as moving pictures but with the gradual passage of time, it steadfastly kept on improving its form and presentation to reach its present status. The primary reason for its continuous progress and tremendous technical advancement was the mass popularity it achieved as a major source of entertainment till the advent of television.
To go back to the birth of cinema, the root can be traced to a machine called kinetoscope which was invented by Thomas Edison in 1891. This machine showed moving pictures for the first time. But a little later, two French brothers called Auguste and Louis Lumiere built a similar machine called cinematographe. This machine could project pictures from a piece of film onto a screen as this had a camera as well as a projector. The pictures were shown one after another in rapid succession and the images on the screen appeared to move. The Lumiere brothers produced the world’s first motion picture in 1895 and gave the world’s first public show in Paris in the same year.
The early films were in black and white, the movements were very jerky and they had no sound. They are called ‘silent cinemas’ as the images did not produce any sound effects on the screen. In the initial days, only news items and real events were shown in the films but the later film-makers made films with their own stories. The actors played the role of the imaginary characters in the stories. The Lumiere brothers made the first story film ‘Watering the Gardener’.
The silent cinema proved to be a great success though tickets were very expensive and as a result huge profits were earned. Consequently large investments were made to improvise and upgrade the technology which gave rise to the use of various types of special effects in the movies. Dance and song sequences, lavish costumes and specially designed sets or background were gradually added to make the scenes more impressive and glamourous.
The phenomenal growth in popularity of the films laid the foundation of a star system even in those days. An unknown girl named Florence Lawrence (later renamed Mary Pickford) became the world’s sweetheart and the first star to earn a million dollar from acting. After the First World War the American films became grand successes when they cheered the war-torn world and entertained the people thus enabling them to forget their miseries and bitter memories of the war. Hollywood city in California became the film city of the world.
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