American Cinema

Report made by Bragina Kate, Class 10-4

Minicap Educational Establishment

Secondary School N0 1 with Thorough Learning of Foreign Languages

Central District, Chelyabinsk

Foreign Language Department



I’m a cinema goer. And also I like watching films on TV or video. But I think, that watching a good film is the best relaxation. It is thought-provoking and entertaining. Now a growing number of people prefer watching films on TV to attending cinemas. There are wonderful comedies, love stories, science fiction, horror films, detective stories, and historical films on. There’s a variety of films available today. It is difficult to live without cinema. One fact is clear for everyone: cinema makes our life better. Cinema helps us to forget different problems. When people watch films, they have a rest. Some films take people into another world. I think it is a pure world, where usual problems do not even exist. Cinema is a great power, it helps us to understand our complex well. Cinema can leave nobody indifferent. It is so powerful that it provokes complex feelings. We meet a lot of people. Everyone has his own opinion about something and like most of us I have my own opinion too, for example, about cinema. Cinema is a necessary and important part of my life. It is my essence, my mode of life and my happiness. Cinema helps me to cope with difficulties and with incorrigible problems. So that’s why I have chosen the topic ‘Cinema’.

American Cinema

The world of American cinema is so far-reaching a topic that it deserves, and often receives, volumes of its own. Hollywood (in Los Angeles, California), of course, immediately comes to mind, as do the many great directors, actors and actresses it continues to attract and produce. But then, one also thinks of the many independent studios throughout the country, the educational and documentary series and films, the socially-relevant tradition in cinema, and the film departments of universities, such as the University of Southern California (USC), the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) or New York University.

For over 50 years, American films have continued to grow in popularity throughout the world. Television has only increased this popularity.

The great blockbusters of film entertainment that stretch from "Gone with the Wind" to "Star Wars" receive the most attention. A look at the prizes awarded at the leading international film festivals will also demonstrate that as an art form, the American film continues to enjoy-considerable prestige. Even when the theme is serious or, as they say, "meaningful", American films remain "popular". In the past decade, films which treated the danger of nuclear power and weapons, alcoholism, divorce, inner-city blight, .the effects of slavery, the plight of Native Americans, poverty and immigration have all received awards and international recognition. And, at the same time, they have done well at the box-office.

Movies (films), including those on video-cassettes, remain the most popular art form in the USA. A book with 20,000 readers is considered to be a best-seller. A hit play may be seen by a few thousand theatergoers. By contrast, about a billion movie tickets are sold at movie houses across the USA every year.

There are three main varieties of movie theaters in the USA: 1) the "first-run" movie houses, which show new films; 2) "art theaters", which specialize in showing foreign films and revivals; 3) "neighborhood theaters", which run films — sometimes two at a time — after the "first-run" houses.

New York is a movie theater capital of the country. Many of the city's famous large movie theaters, once giving Times Square so much of its glitter, have been torn down or converted (in some cases into smaller theaters), and a new generation of modem theaters has appeared to the north and east of the area. Most of them offer continuous performances from around noon till midnight. Less crowded and less expensive are the so-called "neighborhood theaters", which show films several weeks or months after the "first-run" theaters. There are several theaters that specialize in revivals of famous old films and others that show only modernist, avant-garde films. Still others, especially those along 42nd Street, between the Avenue of Americas and Eighth Avenue, run movies about sex and violence. Foreign films, especially those of British, French, Italian and Swedish origin, are often seen in New York, and several movie theaters specialize in the showing of foreign-language films for the various ethnic groups in the city.

The earliest history of film.

The illusion of movement was first noted in the early 19th century. In 1824 the English physician Peter Mark Roget published an article ‘the persistence of vision with regard to moving objects’. Many inventors put his theory to the test with pictures posted on coins that were flipped by the thumb, and with rotating disks of drawings. A particular favorite was the zoetrope, slotted revolving drum through which could be seen clowns and animals that seemed to leap. They were hand drawn on strips of paper fitted inside the drum. Other similar devices were the hemitrope, the phasmatrope, the phenakistoscope, and the praxinoscope. It is not possible to give any one person credit for having invented the motion picture. In the 1880s the Frenchman Etienne Jules Marey developed the rotating shutter with a slot to admit light, and George Eastman, of New York, developed flexible film. In 1888 Thomas Edison, of New Jersey, his phonograph for recording and playing sound on wax cylinders. He tried to combine sound with motion pictures. Edison’s assistant, William Dickson, worked on the idea, and in 1889, he both appeared and spoke in a film. Edison did not turn his attention to the projected motion picture at first. The results were still not good enough, and Edison did not think that films would not have large appeal. Instead he produced and patented the kinetoscope, which ran a continuous loop of film about 15 meters (50 feet) long. Only one person could view it at a time. By 1894, hand-cranked kinetoscope appeared all over the United States and Europe. Edison demonstrated a projecting kinetoscope. The cinematograph based on Edison’s kinetoscope was invented by two Frenchmen, Louis and Auguste Lumiere. This machine consisted of a portable camera and a projector. In December 1895, The Lumiere brothers organized a program of short motion pictures at a Parisian cafe.

The earliest movie theatres.

Films were first thought of as experiment or toys. They were shown in scientific laboratories and in the drawing rooms of private home. When their commercial potential was realized they began to be screened in public to a paying audience. The first films to be shown publicly were short, filmed news items and travelogues. These were screened alongside live variety acts form theatre shows, called vaudeville in United States. Within a few years fairground tents that slowed nothing but programs of films were common sights. In United States stores were converted onto movie theatre, which were known as ‘storefront theatre’. People would pay a nickel to see about an hour’s worth of film, so the theatre came to be known as ‘nickelodeons’. Early film audiences needed patience. There were many technical problems. Projectors were likely to breath down and every projectionist kept slides to reassure the audience: ‘The performance will resume shortly.’ Many projectors caused flickering on the screen, earning films the nickname of ‘the flicks’.

The growth of the film industry.

From the start the film industry was eager to make and show films that people would want to see. The most popular films were those that told stories- narrative fiction films. Film making began to realize that by using different camera angels, locations, lighting and special effects, film could tell a story in the way that live theatre couldn’t.

The great Train Robbery, made in 1903 by Edwin S. Porter, was the first American narrative fiction film. It included the basic ingredients of the Western: a hold-up, a chase, and a gunfight. It used a great variety of shots by showing the action at different distances from the camera- long shots of action in the distance, but also medium shots of the actors shown full-length, and chase-ups of the face and shoulders of a gunman shooting directly at the audience.

Before World War I American film industry had logged behind the film industries of Europe particularly those of France and Italy. But during the war, film making almost stopped in Europe, partly because a chemical used in celluloid was needed for making gunpowder. The American film industry thrived during the war because there was money for making films; and also because of popular the genius of D. W. Griffith. In 1915 Griffith made The Birth Of Nation, a film about the American Civil War and in 1916 he made Intolerance. These three hour’s films were American’s answer to the spectacular Italian films such as Quo Vadis that had earlier astonished the world. For Intolerance Griffith had built a set of an ancient Babylonian city, which was over a mile long, and he photograph it from a balloon. Griffith was a genius, not just because he could show huge and thrilling scenes on the screen, but because he was aware of the artistic possibilities of film.

The actors in the old-sealers had mostly been unknown and their performances very poor. Because the films were silent, actors made up for lack of speech by frantic and unnatural gestures and movements. A new and better style of acting was adopted by a young American actress called Marry Pickford who showed that a simple natural style was more effective on the screen than dramatic arm-waving and chest-thumping. Her fame spread across the Atlantic. In 1918, she signed a contract for more than a million dollars. The stars system was born.

About the same time, some of the slapstick comedians developed unique comedy styles, and also became world-famous stars. Charlie Chaplin, the little man with the derby hat, cane, and boggy pants, became the most famous (he, too, sealed a million-dollar contract). But others such as Buster Heaton, Harold Lloyd, and Harry Langdon were also widely acclaimed. They were great artists whose work is still popular today. By 1920 the cinema had became the most popular form of leisure activity outside the home.

Film studios such as Metro-Goldwin Meyer, Paramount, Warner’s, 20th Century Fox, and United Artists developed a system for producing films on the same principle that Henry Ford used for his cars- the assembly like Hollywood, on the west coast of the United States, became the center of the film industry. Its climate, light and physical surroundings were suited to the film industry, which shot much material out of doors. Film making thrived. In succeeding years, many great films were made in Hollywood, beginning with the silent films, followed, in the mid-twenties, by the first sound pictures.

The first animated cartoon drawn in the United States especially for film was done in 1906 by J. Stuart Blackton. The first full-length animated feature film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made in 1937.

The stars of the films being produced in Hollywood became known throughout the world. Among them were famous Cagney, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, who had first appeared in films in Germany, the Swedish Greta Garbo and the young Shirley Temple. Some of the most famous stars were Mickey Mouse and characters from Walt Disney’s cartoon. Leading film makers included John Ford, Howard Hawks, Frank Capra and George Cukor.

During World War II some of the best Americans directors in the US were recruited by the War Department, because films were needed to help raise the morale of servicemen. Among the best films of this war period were Frank Capra’s ''Why We Fight'' series (1942-45). Walt Disney’s animated films; and documentaries about important battlers directed by Garson Kanin, John Huston, Billy Wilder. Orson Welles’s masterpiece ''Citizen Kane'' (1940) was the story of a newspaper tycoon. After the war high-quality films continued to pour out of the United States. They included Charlie Chaplin’s ''Limelight'' (1952), the fine Western Shane (1956), a drama of the New York docks called On The Waterfront (1954) and many high-spirited musicals of which An American In Paris (1951) was outstanding. Alfred Hitchcock made his best films during this period. ''Psycho'' with its famous murder-in-the-shower scene was probably the most successful. Despite these successes the great studios began to get into financial difficulties because of declining audiences.

However, the late 1960s saw a turning point in the American film industry with the release of a number of films appealing to the youth market, which drew enormous audiences. The most famous of these were Arthur Penn’s ''Bonnie and Clyde'' (1967) and Dennis Hopper’s ''Easy Rider'' (1969). Realising that they could no longer rely on their traditional family audiences, film makers increasingly concentrated on films for the so-called ‘teenage market’, science fiction and fantasy ‘blockbusters’ with computer enhanced special effects Dolby sound such as George Lucas’s ''Star Wars'' (1977) and Steven Spielberg’s ''Raiders Of The Lost Ark'' (1981) became very popular.


Today Americans still continue the custom of eating popcorn at

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