History of the Film Viewing Experience

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Over the past century, there have been countless advancements in the film viewing experience, rendering the past largely irrelevant. Once only viewable in theatres and other designated locations, today thousands of films are available at any time, anywhere there is a computer and an internet connection. This article will highlight how the viewing experience changed over time.

The Silent Era of Filmmaking

The Kinetoscope, created by Thomas Edison in 1891, was an early motion picture exhibition device that showed silent films no longer than 30 seconds to a single viewer. Quickly after, the first “Kinetoscope Parlour” opened on Broadway in New York City. As a result, experimentation was conducted with more time spent recording, alternative projection methods, and additional cameras.

However, with the development of the Cinématographe, the era of experimentation proper commenced. The first film, titled La Sortie de l’usine Lumière, premiered in Paris in March 1985.

Once again, cinema took off in 1902, this time to the moon with Georges Méliès‘s Le Voyage dans la Lune. In an unreliable technological era, he used superimposition, fading, double exposures, and scale models. This set a new benchmark for quality of production and visual effects.

The Talkies

In 1927, the Sound Era was ushered in by The Jazz Singer, the first full-length silent film to feature musical accompaniment. The silent films made famous by Charlie Chaplin had given way to talking pictures and synchronised soundtracks.

The introduction of sound to movies benefited a wide variety of subgenres; in 1931, for example, American gangster movies like Little Caesar and The Public Enemy were particularly successful. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Walt Disney’s first full-length animated feature in English.

Televisions vs Studios

Television must be included in any discussion of the history of cinema. Home televisions became commonplace in the United States in the 1950s. Broadcast television stations were commonplace by that point. Once costing $500, televisions are now available for around $200. In the early 21st century, as home theatres became more common and sophisticated, fewer people went to the movies, causing a decline in ticket sales. As a result, Hollywood adapted by making movies available on demand soon after their theatrical debuts.

Video Home System (VHS)

The problem with watching movies prior to 1972 was that someone else decided when and where you could do so. The only options for watching a movie were at the theatre or on television. That was a huge letdown, but it inspired a bold new step: the widespread distribution of movies on VHS. VHS tapes, the technology that also popularised home movies, gave consumers more agency over their media choices. This gave each family the autonomy to select their own programming and watch it whenever they pleased.

Viewing in the MTV Era

After its debut in 1981, MTV quickly established itself as a dominant force in the emerging field of cable music television. While it primarily served as a platform for musical content, it also served as a major driving force behind the production and distribution of a number of short films, some of which boasted astonishing levels of production value.


You can watch whatever you want, whenever you want on YouTube, while MTV was collapsing because it tried to do too much. That way, the user wouldn’t have to sit around and hope that MTV would play Thriller; he or she could just do that on their own. In 2005, the video-sharing website was launched. As well as original videos of people doing almost anything, it hosts terabytes of copyright violations. In recent years, it has also become highly monetised, with some creators making highly professional videos that bring in thousands of dollars.

Cable TV

Once upon a time, the goal of every novelist was to have their work adapted into a blockbuster film. After George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books were adapted into HBO’s seven-season blockbuster epic Game of Thrones, everyone realised that Cable TV was better able to do justice to long, complex stories. Amazon devoted six hours to the adaptation of Good Omens, written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and published in 1990, and Netflix devoted six hours to Sarah Pinborough’s novel about domestic entanglements, Behind Her Eyes. Netflix has rewritten the soundtrack of cinema history with the release of 371 original movies in 2019.

Film Viewing with Netflix

Only Netflix has changed the way people watch movies forever, and it’s been around for only about 23 years, which is kind of amazing. When Netflix’s streaming service debuted in 2007, it gave users instantaneous access to digital media that had previously been locked away for years. Netflix is now a verb, it makes a tonne of original content, and it’s at the epicentre of a major political debate in the United States.

The impact of digital advancements on Cinema

As digital technology has rapidly advanced over the past two decades, it has had a huge impact on the filmmaking process. Most modern films are shot digitally, with post-production tasks like editing and VFX being completed on set or on set-up computers.

The sharpness, detail, and brightness of digitally projected images in theatres are now on par with those of traditionally projected films. Cinemas that cater to niche audiences are the only ones that have kept their film projection equipment.

Cinematic history kicked off with a bang. Although it expanded rapidly, it remained expensive enough that only a select few organisations could afford to control it for many years. However, with the advent of cheaper and better film (and now video) technology, the medium quickly became accessible to a wider audience. The number of content creators in the world has exploded in recent years, and now hundreds of millions of people make movies on every scale, from DIY tutorials to full-length features, which are shared across many different sites.

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