FILM2401/HUMA2740 – Intro. To Film, Television & Society
Lecture #1: May 6, 13
Purpose of Course: To develop an understanding of the role that the mass media plays in
1. An overview of the history of the film and television industries in the US
2. Acase study on the role of mass media (esp. film and television) in the construction
of empire and its maintenance.
Why did the movies appear in the late 19 century?
Anumber of factors came together in the 1890s that allowed the motion pictures to take
• The scientific impulse
• The societal context – industrialization, urbanization and the need for cheap
entertainment for new working class
• Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)
o The Horse in Motion, 1878 – to study the horse’s movement
• Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)
o Kinestoscope (1983) – only allowed one person to watch the movie at
o Important in motion picture technology
• Auguste and Louis Lumiere
o Summer 1895 was the first public screening of movies outdoors
o First exhibition of projected motion pictures in December 1895 where paid
customers would view the motion pictures
EarlyAudiences in the US
The first 10 or 15 years of the movie exhibition industry was characterized by the
working class patronage.
Arrival of immigrants from South and Eastern Europe: the universal language of the
Upper class looked down at motion pictures at first and in some cases, tried to ban it.
• Amusement parks
• Vaudeville theatres (form of middle class entertainment – singing, dancing,
comedy; showed motion pictures in between live acts) • Itinerant projectionist
• Empty store fronts (Nickelodeons) (certain film-makers rented out specific
locations where viewers would pay to view the motion picture)
Types of Films Viewed By EarlyAudience
• Short in length, started with a minute in length but turned loner soon after
• Scenes of everyday life (beginning of documentary)
• Development of editing
• 1907 – narrative film becomes the dominant form in the US
• Alot of social history could be told from these silent films during that time
period: fashion, lifestyle
• During the earthquake of 1906, a newsreel was made to tell a story through
• There were many types of film shown during the experience, which included a
public announcement or a newsreel and the feature film.
• The colour was paint in the B&W motion picture that added emphasis on what
was going on in the scene.
Case Study #1: The Spanish-American War (1898)
• Ended with the US acquiring control over Cuba, The Philippines, Guam and
Puerto Rico from a defeated Spain
• Edison Company sent their people to Cuba to cover the Spanish War while the
war was still going on
o Supported the US in war efforts
• Edison Company began to re-enact the battle scene in Cuba when they couldn’t
get the real battle scene.
o There was no distinction that made the audience know that this was a re-
How Movies Became Big Business
• MPPC (1908-1915)
o The Motion Picture Patents Company
o A.K.A. “The Edison Trust”