Friday, April 04, 2008

Early movie busniess(2): Edison's monopoly

At the time of the formation of the MPPC, Thomas Edison owned most of the major patents relating to motion pictures. In 1908, Edison allied with seven other major film companies (Biograph, Vitagraph, Essanay, Selig, Lubin, Kalem, American Star and American Pathe) to found MPPC, the Motion Picture Patents Company. It was “designed to bring stability to the chaotic early film years characterized by patent wars and litigation. It was actual a trust, or monopoly of the early film industry.

According to Starr, “the lawsuits brought by Edison Manufacturing were discouraging other production companies from making the investments needed for expansion, while Edison itself used its facilities to make more prints of its movies rather than to increase the number of new movies it made. The failure of the American movie industry to respond to rising demand fast enough created an opening for foreign filmmakers to seize a larger share of the American market.”

Another reflection of Edison’s monopoly was in the Early Motion Picture by Daniel Czitrom, “the Edison interests persuaded Armat ‘that in order to secure the largest profit in the shortest time it is necessary that we attach Mr. Edison’s name in some prominent capacity to this new machine… We should not of course misrepresent the facts to any inquirer, but we think we can use Mr. Edison’s name in such a manner as to keep with the actual truth and yet get the benefit of his prestige.’”

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Socially Tuned out

As motion pictures begin to enter the forum two sides develop as Paul Starr states in chapter 9. "Reformers tended to divide themselves into two camps, though there was much overlap between them: the advocates of repression, who called for government censorship, and the advocates of amelioration and uplift." This neophyte media was to be regulated. There were two paths as the quote explains.

The one of uplift sought to balance out the negative images presented by nickelodeons with other less explicit means of entertainment. The other route presented regulation of media. Although it was an issue of meeting in the middle what is significant is the conclusions that they come to. One is that foreign productions are deemed less positive and more filled with debauchery than American content when rather both American and European films were equal in there negative content. This is an instance were a medium is regulated not necessarily by a government agency but by ideas towards it.


"The theater becomes to them a 'veritable house of dreams' infinitely more real than the noisy streets and the crowded factories."

The need for this type of escapism would be inconcievable to us now, but Jane Addams wrote "The House of Dreams" in 1910. The following year, the biggest work related disaster until 9/11 claimed the lives of 146 women, primarily because of uncaring supervisors and unbelievable sub-par factory construction.

With such terrible conditions, I'd imagine that I would have stooped to theivery and other underhanded methods to escape into a fantasy world, as well.

Editor's Easy Chair

How little has change over the past 96 years. In the article "Editor's Easy Chair", the author writes,
"children would rather give ten cents of their parent's money to go and look idly on a succession of fictitious and largely impossible events as portrayed on the white curtain of the theater than come to school".

The author goes on to propose that children would be more eager to learn if movies wer educational and shown in schools. He says it would be easier for children to learn when they no longer have to guess about events and answers, instead they can just look at photos and shows of actual events and "know". In essence, he is saying that movies will replace "learning" with "knowing".

While this is great, in theory, time has shown us that this is probably not true. He has a point that seeing something (a WWII battle, for example) enhances a persons understanding of an event, but cannot replace the knowledge someone would gain from studying the history behind an event. Although the internet, video camaeras and picture phones make this idea more of a reality than it was 100 years ago; I think movies do more to distract people from learning then they contribute to it.

House of Dreams

House of Dreams
"The theater becomes to them a "veritable house of dreams" infinitely more real than the noisy streets and the crowded factories"
The ability to dream or to fantasize, to indulge in fantasies of the imagination, or imagine something as a fantasy. One of the greatest powers to appear is the children's capacity for imagination. It definitely allows children and even adults the ability to forget about everyday troubles and difficulties and to aspire for great things.
These children of this time, were overworked and culturally stagnant. Their everyday lives were not what a child should have to endure. They had tremendous responsibilities to their families and communities to make money to survive. The theater gave them a little piece of hope and possibility. I however feel sad that these children basically would beg, borrow or steal to escape their everyday lives, for just a short peek.
I believe the theater has a positive impact on children. It shows children they can dream and aspire for great things to come. Parents who have financial resources should culturally educate their children by attending the theater as much as possible. "We can all recall our own moments of revolt against life's actualities".....If we as parents educate the children of today that culture of theater is great for their development, you never know what they will grow up to be.

Early movie business (1): audience

“Movies represented ‘the most spectacular single feature of the amusement situation in recent years’, Motion pictures inhabited the physical and psychic space of the urban street life.”—Early Motion Pictures

Beginning in the late 1890s, film was becoming the new popular entertainment in cities and towns across the United States. According to Czitrom, there was a rapid growth in audience between 1905 and 1918.

Makeshift theaters sprung up all over the country. Business owners converted old shops or restaurants into exhibition halls. Patrons sat at tables and watched "flickers" projected onto a screen of muslin or bed sheets while a single musician played frenzied interludes, known as "the Russian hurries," on piano or violin.

The first movie houses were dubbed "nickelodeons," combining the price of admission with the Greek word for theater. By 1908, there were nearly 8,000 nickelodeon theaters in the U.S. and in two years the number had grown to 10,000. Flashing marquees, glossy posters, noisy phonographs, and player pianos made a great commotion outside the establishments, sparking people's curiosity about this new, dazzling medium.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Drawing the Color Line

"The practice of segregated audiences in mainstream movie theaters continued until 1965," (Richardson 337).

In 1910 an exhibitor was faced with a task of segregating a theater in Louisiana. He came up with two options:
1. "Place a division in the middle of his place, topped with a curtain on which the picture can be projected from one end and be visible on either side of the screen...screen of the translucent materiaL known as architect tracing cloth," (Gomery, 155-169).
2."On one side of the screen the lettering of the titles on all the reading matter will be reversed, which would be rather annoyibng to those who cannot read backwards. The only solution for this would be to erect a huge mirror at the opposite end of the hall and to have the blacks or whites sit with their backs to the screen or on one side," (Gomery, 155-169)

It's hard to imagine why anyone would put such thought into dividing up a theater for such an unjust reason. The writer of the article did say that people in the North did oppose segregation but views and morals are put on rest when a paying job is offered. There is so much enginuity that is used to divide up people so they don't mix.

Early Film

Every time a new type of media is introduced to the public it is considered the “IT” media that will transform society as we know it and will become a global unifier that will eventually create a better society. Such was the case with print and the first newspapers widely available, the telegraph with instant communication, photography and even radio. None of these forms of mass media in my opinion has had the impact that film and eventually video exercises on the society.

“Of all the facets of motion picture history, none is so stunning as the extraordinary rapid growth in the audience during the brief period between 1905 and 1918.” Early Motion Pictures. Daniel Czitrom P. 186

Images in motion let us share a commonality with film we cannot experience through other media. The first films depicting daily activities were so innovative that our need for more and more entertainment would eventually become insatiable. This new public sphere experienced a growth that is still going on today.

We can appreciate the extremely long path as shown by director Wener Nekes in "Film Before Film" that preceded the motion picture and how in a way we were easily amused by the basic laws of light and trickery of the same. Early film instantly captured our imagination and our endless need for entertainment is stronger than ever.

It used to be, since the beginning that we would wait for the new movie or the latest TV show installment. We have taken the origins of film to a new level with mass media like the internet and web sites like YouTube where we don’t rely for “someone else” to entertain us we are creating the entertainment ourselves.

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The house of dreams or the house of nightmares?

"'Going to the show' for thousands of young people in every industrial city is the only possible road ro the realms of mystery and romance: the theater is the only place where they can satisfy that craving for a conception of life higher than that which the actual world offers them...The theater becomes to them a 'veritable house of dreams' infinitely more real than the noisy streets and the crowded factories," (75-76).

It is obvious that urban life in the 20th century was difficult for adults, it was probably unimaginable for young children who was forced into labor to make ends meet for their families. Sweat shop labor did not allow any room for imagination and play time, so Jane Adams of Hull House thought it disastrous to expose children to the whimsical world of theater and fantasy. She thought that it was like waving a candy bar in front of a diabetic. The children who are exposed to theater and plays start to act out the fantasy world in daily events.

"Is it not astounding that a city allows thousands of its youth to fill their impressionable minds with these absurdities which certainly will become the foundation for their working moral codes and the data from which they will judge the properties of life?...Apparently the blankness and grayness of life itself had been broken for her only by the portrayal of a different world," (79-81).

Children are naturally imaginative so if they do not have an outlet for their creativity it will just come out in other ways, like a little boy pretending to be a pirate and stealing from a chinese laundry man. I don't necessarily think it's better to stifle it and have them never see plays and theater. I feel that they would eventually learn the difference between reality and fantasy, but it is understandable that they would want to resort to fantasy world rather than live in their harsh reality.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Motion Pictures And A Better Society

The average daily attendance at the motion pictures of the country is
estimated at five million.....this immense audience is reached more easily through the motion picture than by any other

In this reading by author Boyd Fisher, he gives a description of how the "motion picture" became used as a tool in order to make "model citizens" (civic usage of film). Boyd uses examples of the motion pictures usage from issues like abolishing child labor, contract prison labor, city planning records, accurate historical records (to name a few). This quote that I chose to use is an example of the power that this new media had across the nation. It also gives me an understanding of how this "ulterior motive" would work during this period of early 20th century (1912). Films are new, they capture the imagination. Why not the mind? Boyd also points out the political power of this type of motion picture as he describes a film entitled "votes For Women", where there are actually scenes of women doing just that (includes Jane Addams).

Civic motion pictures have also been used as a device by the law in its attempt to catch criminals. Boyd explains:

Another use of the films has been made in the city Prague, where criminals are put in front of the camera...and in case of escapes...the pictures are used in effecting the public cooperation in capture.

Although this is an uncommon way to capture criminals (or potential criminals), again at this point in history this is somewhat of a "breakthrough" idea and it shows the many uses of not only civic film, but of motion pictures in general.

I Make a Crime Wave

"I enjoy crime waves. I made one once; Jake Riis helped; many reporters joined in the uplift of the rising tide of crime; and T.R. stopped it. "

When crime strikes the city the police aren't the only ones that arrive on scene to cover the case. Fallowing directly behind the boys in blue is an army of hungry young reporters eager to the their first big scoop. If it weren't for the press, the majority of the city would never know of the crime the erupts through their city. When a crime wave sweeps through a city the press is out to cover every incident.
Lincoln Steffens explains in "I Make a Crime Wave: Beating the competition and the politics of crime reporting", how the press is responsible for much of the hype during a crime wave, more so then the rise in crime itself. Journalism is a competitive business where you have to beat your completion to the punch. This sense of urgency creates a flood of crime stories in the papers. Then a mass hysteria blows through the streets and now you have a full blown crime wave. The media can build a crime wave but just its competitive nature.


The Rise of the New York Times

"The World may have set the pace for modern mass circulation journalism, but after 1896 the New York Times established the standard"
For years my fellow New Yorker's have read the New York Times from cover to cover, especially on Sundays. This paper displayed a quality of reading in every aspect of the world. It is a trusted household name. Unlike many publications, such as the Daily News and the Post. The New York Times has set the standards and still today maintains them. The quality of writing is interesting, whereas I feel, no other paper could every duplicate its professionalism. This publication is a "clear recognition of success". The New York Times has always had the abililty to tantalize your brain knowledge and to add to your intellect. It is a first class paper and they knew it back then, that it would be a "one of a kind" way to publicize the News.