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Motion Pictures

Later Film History

In the 1920s and 1930s, motion pictures became a big business in the U.S., and most were produced like products on an assembly line. Often, Hollywood films did not have distinct personalities. They instead fit into genre types: western, musical, horror, gangster, and comedy. Exceptions, like Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941), were rare. In Europe, motion pictures remained a smaller scale business that was also seen as an art. In 1925, the London Film Society was founded to promote motion pictures as an art form.

After World War II ended in 1945, the power of the Hollywood studios declined. Partly this came from a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that the studios had an illegal monopoly because they controlled the production, distribution, and showing of motion pictures. As a result, the studios were forced to sell their theaters. Foreign motion picture industries grew stronger, and started their own distribution systems, such as France's annual Cannes Film Festival. France, Italy, Sweden, and Japan all produced important and successful motion pictures.

Perhaps more than anything else, the rise of television changed the motion picture industry. People who could view visual entertainment at home for free were less likely to travel to a theater and pay money to see a film. The motion picture studios initially resisted the showing of their films on TV. By the mid-1950s, however, many studios were selling and renting their films to TV networks. To lure consumers to theaters, filmmakers began using technology to make seeing a film in a theater a more exciting experience.

One technology was Cinerama, popular in 1952, in which three separate projectors showed their images on a large, nearly semicircular screen. Six speakers provided stereo sound. Though initially popular, this medium required large theaters and expensive equipment. It proved economically unfeasible. CinemaScope, invented in the 1920s but not exploited until the 1950s, used special lenses to squeeze a wide-screen image onto normal 35 mm film. Another lens, put onto the projector, unsqueezed the image. The result was a wide-screen image that required theaters to invest less than $20,000. CinemaScope proved popular, and films like A Star is Born were made using it. The compression and decompression resulted in a blurry, grainy image, however. A better solution for wide screen was to use 70 mm film, as in MGM's "Oklahoma." After the success of this film, most major studios created a version of the 70 mm process. Wide screen processes are still being developed, such as the OMNIMAX, which uses a special screen in the shape of a dome.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Molecular distillation to My station and its duties:Motion Pictures - The Invention Of Motion Pictures, Sound Joins The Image, Color Comes To Film, Later Film History - Equipment