|President Calvin Coolidge looking on as Edison works one of his first generation movie cameras.|
The history of film began in the 1890s, when motion picture cameras were invented and film production companies started to be established. Because of the limits of technology, films of the 1890s were under a minute long and until 1927 motion pictures were produced without sound. The first decade of motion picture saw film moving from a novelty to an established large-scale entertainment industry. The films became several minutes long consisting of several shots. The first rotating camera for taking panning shots was built in 1897. The first film studios were built in 1897. Special effects were introduced and film continuity, involving action moving from one sequence into another, began to be used. In the 1900s, continuity of action across successive shots was achieved and the first close-up shot was introduced (that some claim D. W. Griffith invented). Most films of this period were what came to be called "chase films". The first use of animation in movies was in 1899. The first feature length multi-reel film was a 1906 Australian production. The first successful permanent theatre showing only films was "The Nickelodeon" in Pittsburgh in 1905. By 1910, actors began to receive screen credit for their roles, and the way to the creation of film stars was opened. Regular newsreels were exhibited from 1910 and soon became a popular way for finding out the news. Overall, from about 1910, American films had the largest share of the market in Australia and in all European countries except France.
New film techniques were introduced in this period including the use of artificial lighting, fire effects and low-key lighting (i.e. lighting in which most of the frame is dark) for enhanced atmosphere during sinister scenes. As films grew longer, specialist writers were employed to simplify more complex stories derived from novels or plays into a form that could be contained on one reel and be easier to be understood by the audience – an audience that was new to this form of storytelling. Genres began to be used as categories; the main division was into comedy and drama, but these categories were further subdivided. During the First World War there was a complex transition for the film industry. The exhibition of films changed from short one-reel programs to feature films. Exhibition venues became larger and began charging higher prices. By 1914, continuity cinema was the established mode of commercial cinema. One of the advanced continuity techniques involved an accurate and smooth transition from one shot to another.
D. W. Griffith had the highest standing among American directors in the industry, because of the dramatic excitement he conveyed to the audience through his films. The American industry, or "Hollywood", as it was becoming known after its new geographical center in California, gained the position it has held, more or less, ever since: film factory for the world and exporting its product to most countries. By the 1920s, the United States reached what is still its era of greatest-ever output, producing an average of 800 feature films annually or 82% of the global total (Eyman, 1997). During late 1927, Warners released The Jazz Singer, with the first synchronized dialogue (and singing) in a feature film. By the end of 1929, Hollywood was almost all-talkie, with several competing sound systems (soon to be standardized). Sound saved the Hollywood studio system in the face of the Great Depression (Parkinson, 1995)
The desire for wartime propaganda created a renaissance in the film industry in Britain, with realistic war dramas. The onset of American involvement in World War II also brought a proliferation of films as both patriotism and propaganda. The House Un-American Activities Committee investigated Hollywood in the early 1950s. During the immediate post-war years the cinematic industry was also threatened bytelevision, and the increasing popularity of the medium meant that some film theatres would bankrupt and close. Following the end of World War II in the 1940s, the following decade, the 1950s, marked a 'Golden Age' for non-English world cinema.