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D.W. G RIFFITH AND THE CINEMA OF NARRATIVE INTEGRATION, PART 1 Lecture 6.

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Presentation on theme: "D.W. G RIFFITH AND THE CINEMA OF NARRATIVE INTEGRATION, PART 1 Lecture 6."— Presentation transcript:

1 D.W. G RIFFITH AND THE CINEMA OF NARRATIVE INTEGRATION, PART 1 Lecture 6

2 How and why did filmmaking practice shift from a cinema of attractions in the pre-1908 period to a cinema of narrative integration in the post period?

3 In order to answer that question we need to understand the following:

4 Key terms Mode of production – How and by whom are films being produced? Mode of exhibition – How and where are films being exhibited? Mode of appreciation – How are actual audiences interacting/enjoying/appreciating the films? Mode of representation – What are the predominant techniques used in the film texts themselves?

5 P RE MODE OF REPRESENTATION ( M. O. R ), MODE OF PRODUCTION ( M. O. P.), MODE OF EXHIBITION ( M. O. E.), MODE OF APPRECIATION ( M. O. A.) : Self-Contained Producers – Mode of representation (M.O.R.) Cinema of attractions – Mode of production (M.O.P) Companies developed the technology and made the films, and sometimes assisted with the exhibition – Edison, Lumière, American Mutoscope (later Biograph), Pathé Frerès, Vitagraph Companies rented out the technology (projectors), the films, and a person to help with the projection – Mode of exhibition (M.O.P.) *Vaudeville theaters* – One part of a show Theaters rented a “complete service” from the production companies Few theaters that only showed films – Mode of appreciation (M.O.A.) Illusions and novelty

6 P.B. Chase’s Polite Vaudeville Theater Program Bill Washington, D.C., Week of April 29 th, 1901

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8 P.B. Chase’s Polite Vaudeville Theater Program Bill Washington, D.C., Week of September 21 st, 1908

9 Chase’s Theater (ca. 1912)

10 P RE MODE OF REPRESENTATION ( M. O. R ), MODE OF PRODUCTION ( M. O. P.), MODE OF EXHIBITION ( M. O. E.), MODE OF APPRECIATION ( M. O. A.) : Independent Exhibitors – Mode of representation (M.O.R.) Cinema of attractions – Mode of production (M.O.P) Companies sold (rather than rented) the technology (projectors) and the films Projectors were easier to use (less need for a projectionist) – Mode of exhibition (M.O.P.) Exhibitors bought projectors and films Increasing number of Vaudeville theaters incorporated films in playbills *Travelling entertainments* – Fairgrounds, parks, etc… Exhibitors played a curatorial role; each show was “unique” No standardization Few film-only theaters Emergent renting practices – Mode of appreciation (M.O.A.) Story films had become very popular – The Great Train Robbery (1903) was the most commercially successful in the pre-Griffith period Audiences were familiar with many of the stories and dramatized events – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1903

11 P RE MODE OF REPRESENTATION ( M. O. R ), MODE OF PRODUCTION ( M. O. P.), MODE OF EXHIBITION ( M. O. E.), MODE OF APPRECIATION ( M. O. A.) : Nickelodeon era – Mode of representation (M.O.R.) Cinema of attractions – Mode of production (M.O.P) Companies usually sold (rather than rented) the technology (projectors) and the films Biograph emerges as the first company to shift to ‘feature’ films Growing demand for films – Mode of exhibition (M.O.P.) Emergence of a new intermediary: the film exchangeman (like a distributor) – Bought films from production companies and rented them to exhibitors This helped propel the “nickelodeon boom” – huge increase in theaters (nickelodeons) whose prime attraction was films – CINEMA AS MASS ART Traveling exhibitors went out of business – Mode of appreciation (M.O.A.) Story films were most popular Stories were often familiar to the audience

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13 P UBLISHED IN THE C HICAGO S UNDAY T RIBUNE, A PRIL 8 TH 1906 Title: “Nickel Theatre Pays Well; Small Cost and Big Profit” “…all along the line comes the cheering note that nickels count, and profits are regular. …[At the shopping-district theater], they must gather 2,200 5 cent coins before profit begins. The house seats 399 people, and two shows an hour are given, except Saturday and Sundays when the crowds are largest and an extra performance is wedged into every sixty minutes. The hours are from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and during this time there is no cessation. It is the genuine continuous. The rush hours of the theater’s day are from 12 to 2, and from 6 to 8 p.m., when the capacity of the house is taxed as a rule” (quoted in Musser 1990)

14 By 1907, there were between 2,500 and 3,000 nickelodeons. By 1908, Motion Picture World was estimating that there were 8, 626 movie theaters in the U.S. (stat quoted in Gunning 1991). By 1910, 10,000 theaters (Roberta Pearson 1996) By 1909, film attendance was about 45 million per week (Pearson 1996) In 1905, new film programs were being offered twice per week; in 1906, three times per week; by 1907 programs were changing EVERY day but Sunday (Musser 1990)

15 Lubin Nickelodeon, Philadelphia, ca. 1907

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17 Detroit, Michigan, 1909

18 N ICKELODEON AUDIENCES From Views and Film Index (1906): “They all do business. This is evident at any hour during the day and up to 12 o’clock at night. Places are continually opening. East of the Bowery lies the great East Side section of New York, with its great tenements and the countless humanity living in it. The character of the people who use the Bowery as thoroughfare and who may be classed as transient is not of such a nature that they would attend these shows: therefore the logical conclusion, and what is now the established fact, is that these moving picture shows and arcades are supported by the residents of the vicinity, the great Italian settlement on the one side and the great Jewish settlement of the other.” (quoted in Musser 1990)

19 I MPACT OF THE “ NICKELODEON BOOM ” Cinema became a mass art (in two senses) Film reel (vs. projectors or “complete service”) became the industry’s main commodity Acted film (half reel to one reel in length) became the industry’s main product Demand for films increased Narrative clarity became a priority New worries about respectability of moving pictures

20 W HAT EXPLAINS THE SHIFT IN THE MODE OF REPRESENTATION AROUND 1908? 1.Emergence of film as a mass art with the “nickelodeon boom” increased demand 2.Criticism of films whose storylines were unclear suggested the need for narrative efficiency in order to maintain profitability a)Familiar stories were limited b)broader, more diverse audience less familiar with once taken- for-granted cultural referents 3.Standardization of the industry evidenced in the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) 4.Concerns of reformers about the class composition of nickelodeon audiences pushed the industry to try to appeal to a middle class public 5.Turn to the theatrical and character psychology

21 Motion Pictures Patents Company (MPPC) Formed in 1908 until 1915 (decline began as early as 1910) Member companies: Edison, Biograph, Vitagraph, Selig, Essanay, Méliès, Pathé, Kleine, Kalem, Lubin Pooled patents for cameras, projectors, film stock Established standard price per foot for films Regulated the release of new films by participating studios Charged exhibitors royalties ($2) for using patented projectors Only licensed (and vetted exhibitors) could rent MPPC films from exchanges Film Exchanges could lease films, but not purchase them

22 T HE P ROBLEM OF N ARRATIVE C LARITY Views and Film Index (Sept. 1906): “Moving Picture—for Audiences, not Makers Regardless of the fact that there are a number of good moving pictures brought out, it is true that there are some which, although photographically good, are poor because the manufacturer, being familiar with the picture and the plot, does not take into consideration that the film was not made for him, but for the audience. A subject recently seen was very good photographically, and the plot also seemed to be good, but could not be understood by the audience. If there were a number of headings on the film it would have made the story more tangible. The effect of the picture was that some people in the audience tired of following a picture which they did not understand, and left their seats…. Manufacturers should produce films which can be easily understood by the public. It is not sufficient that the makers understand the plot—the pictures are made for the public.” (quoted in Musser 1990)


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