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Silent Film

  • First Kinetoscope Parlor Opens in NYC

    First Kinetoscope Parlor Opens in NYC
    The Kinetoscope is an early motion picture exhibition device. The Kinetoscope was designed for films to be viewed by one individual at a time through a peephole viewer window at the top of the device. Arcades opened in throughout the northeastern cities.
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    History of Silent Film

  • American Mutoscope and Biograph Company

    American Mutoscope and Biograph Company
    Motion picture company founded in 1895 and active until 1916. First company in the United States devoted entirely to film production and exhibition, and for two decades was one of the most prolific, releasing over 3000 short films and 12 feature films. America's most prominent film studio and one of the most respected and influential studios worldwide
  • Edison Vitascope

    Edison Vitascope
    Thomas Edison presented the first publically-projected Vitascope motion picture (with hand-tinting) in the US to a paying American audience on a screen, at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in New York City, with his latest invention - the projecting kinetoscope or Vitascope.
  • Vitascope Hall

    Vitascope Hall
    After showing films in a lakefront park, William "Pop" Rock and Walter Wainwright transformed a converted vacant store in New Orleans, Louisiana into Vitascope Hall. It became the first "storefront theater" or building in the US dedicated exclusively to showing motion pictures, although it screened films for only two months. The theatre accommodated 400 people, and had two shows per day, with admission 10 cents.
  • Edisonia Hall - first movie theater

    Edisonia Hall - first movie theater
    The world's first permanent movie theatre exclusively designed as a venue for showing motion pictures was the Edisonia Vitascope Theatre (aka Edisonia Hall), a 72 seat theatre which officially opened in downtown Buffalo, New York on Monday, October 19, 1896.
  • Beginning of Silent Film Era

    First motion pictures that can be considered "films" – emerged, and film-makers began to introduce basic editing techniques and film narrative.
  • The Great Train Robbery

    The Great Train Robbery
    Short Western. Dir. Edwin S. Porter. Edison Manufacturing Company. 12 min. Revitalized the film industry because the film had a plot.
  • Warner Bros open their first nickelodeon

    Warner Bros open their first nickelodeon
    The Warner Brothers (three brothers, Harry, Sam, and Albert) opened their first nickelodeon (theatre), a building that they called the Cascade Movie Palace, in New Castle, Pennsylvania. It seated 99 persons, who could view three movies for a nickel.
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    Nickelodeon Craze

    Usually set up in converted storefronts, these small, simple theaters charged five cents for admission, typically seated fewer than 200 – the patrons often sat on hard wooden chairs, with the screen hung on the back wall. A piano (and maybe a drum set) would be placed to the side of, or below the screen. It was estimated that by 1910 as many as 26 million Americans visited these theaters weekly.
  • Fort Lee, New Jersey - first studio city

    Fort Lee, New Jersey - first studio city
    Kalem Company began using Fort Lee in 1907 as a location for filming in the area, other filmmakers quickly followed. In 1909, a forerunner of Universal Studios, the Champion Film Company, built the first studio. They were quickly followed by others who either built new studios or who leased facilities in Fort Lee.
  • Patent's Trust

    Patent's Trust
    A trust of all the major US film companies. The monopolistic practices forced the smaller independent filmmakers to move their operations to Hollywood, whose distance from Patent's Trust home base of New Jersey made it more difficult for the Trust to enforce its patents
  • D.W. Griffith - starts at Biograph Studio

    D.W. Griffith - starts at Biograph Studio
    Widely considered as the most important filmmaker of his generation. Created the "grammar of film."
  • Hollywood - becomes a studio city

    Hollywood - becomes a studio city
    Nestor Studios built first studio in Hollywood. Many movie-makers headed west to avoid Patent's Trust and established west coast operations in Hollywood.
  • Regent Theater - first motion picture palace

    Regent Theater - first motion picture palace
    Upscale film theater, suitable to exhibit films to the upperclass. Motion picture palaces were outfitted with a plethora amenities such as larger sitting areas, air conditioning, and even childcare services. Between 1914 and 1922 over 4,000 movie palaces were opened.
  • Charlie Chaplin debuts as "The Tramp"

    Charlie Chaplin debuts as "The Tramp"
    "The Tramp" character, as it became known, debuted to audiences in "Kid Auto Races at Venice" – shot later than "Mabel's Strange Predicament" but released two days earlier on 7 February 1914. Chaplin adopted the character as his screen persona.
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    World War I

    Outbreak of WWI. Destroys European film industry. As a result, the American film industry will dominate world-wide film distribution with over 90% of all international exhibitions being Hollywood films.
  • The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith)

    The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith)
    American feature film. Dir. D.W. Griffith. First significant American feature film. Civil War account of the birth of the KKK. Biggest box office during the silent film era. Started the fortunes of the movie moguls and pioneers in the Hollywood film industry.
  • Mary Pickford signs - Famous Players-Lasky

    Mary Pickford signs - Famous Players-Lasky
    "America's Sweetheart" signs a new contract with Adolph Zukor that granted her full authority over production of the films in which she starred, and a record-breaking salary of $10,000 a week.In addition, Pickford's compensation was half of a film's profits, with a guarantee of $1,040,000.
  • Charlie Chaplin signs with First National

    Charlie Chaplin signs with First National
    Charlie Chaplin signs with First National Exhibitor's Circuit for an unheard of amount of $1 million to an 8 movied contract. He is granted control as producer, director, screenwriter and actor.
  • United Artsts Studio

    United Artsts Studio
    Founded by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, the studio was premised on allowing actors to control their own interests, rather than being dependent upon commercial studios.
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

    The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
    Dir. Robert Weine. Considered the quintessential work of German Expressionist cinema, telling the story of an insane hypnotist who uses a somnambulist to commit murders. Features a dark and twisted visual style, with sharp-pointed forms, oblique and curving lines, structures and landscapes that lean and twist in unusual angles, and shadows and streaks of light painted directly onto the sets.
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    German Expressionism

    An art movement that influenced German cineman during the 1920s.The first Expressionist films made up for a lack of lavish budgets by using set designs with wildly non-realistic, geometrically absurd angles, along with designs painted on walls and floors to represent lights, shadows, and objects. The plots and stories of the Expressionist films often dealt with madness, insanity, betrayal and other "intellectual" topics triggered by the experiences of WW I.
  • Pickford and Fairbanks marry

    Pickford and Fairbanks marry
    The "marriage of the century" when stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. married in late March, after divorcing their spouses. He bought a lodge for his new bride -- named Pickfair, which soon became the social center of movieland, and served as a gathering place for politicians, journalists, artists, and foreign diplomats.
  • Fatty Arbuckle Scandal

    Fatty Arbuckle Scandal
    Screen comedian Fatty Arbuckle is arrested in San Francisco for the rape and murder of aspiring actress Virginia Rappe. The scandal rocked Hollywood and ushered in the era of self-censorship.
  • Will Hays - Chairman of the MPPDA

    Will Hays - Chairman of the MPPDA
    U.S. Postmaster General Will Hays becomes first chairman of the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA). In response to the Fatty Arbuckle Scandal, his goal was to improve the image of the film industry. Implemented the morality clause, created the Central Casting Agency, and established the Morals Code.
  • Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau)

    Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau)
    Starring Max Schreck. Dir. F.W. Murnau. German expressionist horror film. Adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. One of the most iconic films of the German Expressionist movement. Notable for its use of the expressive acting style and a strong contrast in lighting, resulting in a chiaroscuro effect
  • Flaming Youth (Colleen Moore)

    Flaming Youth (Colleen Moore)
    Starring Colleen Moore. Credited with launching a cycle of movies about flappers and helping Colleen Moore be seen as the originator of the screen flapper.[
  • The Big Parade (John Gilbert)

    The Big Parade (John Gilbert)
    Starring John Gilbert. Dir. King Vidor. MGM. WWI drama. Biggest box office hit of the silent era.
  • The Black Pirate (Douglas Fairbanks)

    The Black Pirate (Douglas Fairbanks)
    Starring Douglas Fairbanks. Dir. Donald Crisp. United Artists. Adventure film about a company of pirates lead by the mysterious Black Pirate. Filmed in two color Technicolor.
  • Movietone sound system

    Movietone sound system
    A newer and better recording system for putting synchronized sound-on-film called Movietone was developed by Theodore W. Case and Earl I. Sponable for William Fox of the Fox Film Corporation. In this system, the sound track was placed onto the actual film next to the picture frames, rather than on a separate synchronized disc as in the Vitaphone system.
  • Flesh and Devil (Garbo and Gilbert)

    Flesh and Devil (Garbo and Gilbert)
    Flesh and the Devil (1926), released late in the year, marked the start of the famous (on and off-screen) romance of Greta Garbo and John Gilbert during Hollywood's Golden Age.
  • Metropolis (Dir. Fritz Lang)

    Metropolis (Dir. Fritz Lang)
    A stylized, visually-compelling, melodramatic silent film set in the 21st century city of Metropolis - Lang's German Expressionistic masterpiece helped develop the science-fiction genre. The luxurious, futuristic city of skyscrapers and bridges was stratified and divided into an upper, elite, privileged class and a subterranean, nameless, oppressed, ant-like worker/slave class.
  • The Jazz Singer (Al Jolson)

    The Jazz Singer (Al Jolson)
    Musical. Starring Al Jolson. Warner Bros. First talkie--used Vitaphone process. Box office success forced studios to retool for sound, bringing about the end of the silent film era.
  • Steamboat Willie (Walt Disney)

    Steamboat Willie (Walt Disney)
    Mickey Mouse. Dir. Walt Disney. First synchronized sound cartoon. Introduced Mickey Mouse.
  • Hays (Production) Code established

    Hays (Production) Code established
    Followed censorship guidelines and went into effect after government threats of censorship expanded by 1930. However, the code was never enforced until 1934.
  • King of Jazz

    King of Jazz
    Featuring Paul Whiteman and his orchestra. Universal Pictures. First talkie issued by Universal. A revue, filmed entirely in the early two-color Technicolor process. There is zero story, only a series of musical numbers alternating with "blackouts" (very brief comedy sketches with abrupt punch line endings) and other short introductory or linking segments.