“Hugo” is the new Scorcese film that is, in part, about some of the early work of filmmaker Georges Melies….his “moonshot” showing the man on the moon with a spaceship through his eye is one of the graphics from “6 Degrees of Film!”….So, what’s old is new again! Author’s Note
Here’s part of Chapter One:
There are a myriad number of books and film classes documenting the exact origins of film. The earliest films consisted of simple reels of people engaged in a kiss or a physical activity. The first films, silent moving pictures, evolved from the existing technology. Some of the first films at the beginning of the twentieth-century dealt with the future and science-fiction, which continues to hold great fascination for audiences. These films showed what the future might look like and this has always been one of the vital factors in film-making. The depiction of events outside of the reality of everyday life turned film into art.
Early films such as “Birth of a Nation” and “Battleship Potemkin” are of note as they depicted social issues that also entertained mass audiences.
Film was and is entertainment for the masses. If you want to learn, you read. If you want an experience, you go to the
movies. The act of going to the movies was marketed to the masses at the turn of the twentieth century. Nickelodeons were invented for the express purpose of driving in large crowds of people. The “art” of motion pictures consisted of short reels of flickering images.
The “blockbusters” of the day had titles like, “The Great Train Robbery” where a man turned to the audience with a gun and fired it for no apparent reason other than to create a stir.
Thomas Edison and the Mass Marketing of Movies
Films had begun at the turn of the century and had generally been regarded as a commodity to be turned out. In much the same way that auto parts manufacturing interested Henry Ford, Thomas Edison became immersed in the wholesale marketing of film to the masses.
Thomas Edison was one of the first mass marketers of film. Although he wasn’t strictly interested in the art of motion pictures, he did know how to turn a buck. There were other pioneers more interested in the “art” of film like George Melies, a Frenchman who created some of the first “science-fiction” films at the turn of the century. But he was not a businessman, and he didn’t understand how to gain control of the small, artistic films he created. That is a lesson that Edison understood. And in the end, Mass Marketing has always been an integral part of Hollywood and film-making in general.
But at the beginning of the twentieth century, the only entertainment for poor people often was nickelodeons. Poor immigrants were patrons of early cinema as they could learn about American life and values plus learn English from the subtitles!