Film History Before 1920 : Louis Lumiere, Thomas Edison & Carl Laemmle.

I have heard that my film distribution history is a little long to be a blog, so I am shortening it for my readers. Enjoy!

Film distribution business’ earliest history can be traced back to the first Kinetescope parlor that was opened at 1155 Broadway, New York City, April 14, 1894. “It was owned by the Holland brothers, who were licensed by the Kinetescope Company to distribute Kinetescopes and Kinetescope films in New York.” (Robinson, p.45) Edison had made an invention and set out to distribute it to this company and others. He had serious competition – (independent from his own creation of the kinetescope) from other companies that sold their own kinetescope and kinethescope movies among the most prominent were the American Mutoscope Company (i.e., Biograph) and the International Film Company in New York; Edward Amet in Waukegan, Illinois; and Sigmund Lubin in Philadelphia. (Muser, 103)

The competition was fierce and this was what independent distribution was created out of – competition. In 1901, Edison gains an ultimate monopoly over distribution over motion pictures. In the history of motion pictures, every time the government steps in to regulate it, the movie business is severely altered.
“Many people were aware of the accomplishments of Edison, the technological advancements he created, but overlooked is his crucial work as a producer and distributor” (Hall, 2007) Edison, from 1900-1910, single-handedly tried to grab hold of the film business for himself, by suing a competitor every time they made a movie and tried to distribute a movie.

This didn’t work out for him, so he formed the Motion Pictures Patents Company (MPCC) in 1909. He involved 9 of the top distribution houses at the time and it was legally ruled that they could only make and distribute films. . Independent Film Distribution was started to break free of control of the MPPC. It is an independent work that does not have to conform to Edison’s standards and is shown without a major studios money or help. In 1909, Laemmle, a wholesale distributor of films to theatres, was infuriated at the MPCC, and he continually challenged them in court over their monopoly until the MPCC stopped distributing films to his company. Angrier than ever, Laemmle created the Independent Motion Picture Company (IMP) and gave life to a new filmmaking force. He started making films and buying films from others and selling them. He creates in 1911, with Pat Powers and Mark Dintenfass, is known as Universal Studios.

A man named Zukor also charged in after the MPCC and started making films and distributing them. They also gave the actors credits on the film and listed their name at the beginning of the movies, the first step in democratizing films. Lamella and the MPCC wouldn’t do this because they were afraid of paying the actors too much. Independent Distribution was simplified for the first time and let a lot of new films in from other filmmakers, such as Howard Hughes. “Laemmmle and Zukor succeeded Edison and Laemmle founded Universal Studios and Zukor founded Paramount Studios. (Hall, 2007) Several new independents (at the time) in 1915, William Fox founds Fox Film Corporation, and combines production, distribution and theatres together and between 1915 and 1924, United Artists, Warner Brothers, MGM and Columbia formed as studios.

To see the full History of Film from 1890 to Present, click here


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