Presentation on theme: "D.W. Griffith and the cinema of narrative integration, part 1"— Presentation transcript:
1D.W. Griffith and the cinema of narrative integration, part 1 Lecture 6
2How 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-1908 period?
3In order to answer that question we need to understand the following: What constitutes, at the level of form, the cinema of attractions?What constitutes, at the level of form, the cinema of narrative integration?What historical and economic factors explain the shift ?Why does the shift occur around 1908?
4Mode of representation Key termsMode of productionHow and by whom are films being produced?Mode of exhibitionHow and where are films being exhibited?Mode of appreciationHow are actual audiences interacting/enjoying/appreciating the films?Mode of representationWhat are the predominant techniques used in the film texts themselves?
51896-1901: Self-Contained Producers Pre-1908 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 ProducersMode of representation (M.O.R.)Cinema of attractionsMode of production (M.O.P)Companies developed the technology and made the films, and sometimes assisted with the exhibitionEdison, Lumière, American Mutoscope (later Biograph), Pathé Frerès, VitagraphCompanies rented out the technology (projectors), the films, and a person to help with the projectionMode of exhibition (M.O.P.)*Vaudeville theaters*One part of a showTheaters rented a “complete service” from the production companiesFew theaters that only showed filmsMode of appreciation (M.O.A.)Illusions and novelty
6P. B. Chase’s Polite Vaudeville Theater Program Bill Washington, D. C P.B. Chase’s Polite Vaudeville Theater Program Bill Washington, D.C., Week of April 29th, 1901From the Library of Congress online exhibit: “The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, ”
7P. B. Chase’s Polite Vaudeville Theater Program Bill Washington, D. C P.B. Chase’s Polite Vaudeville Theater Program Bill Washington, D.C., Week of April 29th, 1901From the Library of Congress online exhibit: “The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, ”
8P. B. Chase’s Polite Vaudeville Theater Program Bill Washington, D. C P.B. Chase’s Polite Vaudeville Theater Program Bill Washington, D.C., Week of September 21st, 1908
9Chase’s Theater (ca. 1912)Leased to Chase in 1912 by B.F. Keith (source: Library of Congress
10Pre-1908 mode of representation (m. o. r), mode of production (m. o. p Pre-1908 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 ExhibitorsMode of representation (M.O.R.)Cinema of attractionsMode of production (M.O.P)Companies sold (rather than rented) the technology (projectors) and the filmsProjectors were easier to use (less need for a projectionist)Mode of exhibition (M.O.P.)Exhibitors bought projectors and filmsIncreasing number of Vaudeville theaters incorporated films in playbills*Travelling entertainments*Fairgrounds, parks, etc…Exhibitors played a curatorial role; each show was “unique”No standardizationFew film-only theatersEmergent renting practicesMode of appreciation (M.O.A.)Story films had become very popularThe Great Train Robbery (1903) was the most commercially successful in the pre-Griffith periodAudiences were familiar with many of the stories and dramatized eventsUncle Tom’s Cabin, 1903
11Pre-1908 mode of representation (m. o. r), mode of production (m. o. p Pre-1908 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 eraMode of representation (M.O.R.)Cinema of attractionsMode of production (M.O.P)Companies usually sold (rather than rented) the technology (projectors) and the filmsBiograph emerges as the first company to shift to ‘feature’ filmsGrowing demand for filmsMode 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 exhibitorsThis helped propel the “nickelodeon boom”huge increase in theaters (nickelodeons) whose prime attraction was filmsCINEMA AS MASS ARTTraveling exhibitors went out of businessMode of appreciation (M.O.A.)Story films were most popularStories were often familiar to the audience
13Published in the Chicago Sunday Tribune, April 8th 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)
14By 1907, there were between 2,500 and 3,000 nickelodeons 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)
18Nickelodeon 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)
19Impact of the “nickelodeon boom” Cinema became a mass art (in two senses)Film reel (vs. projectors or “complete service”) became the industry’s main commodityActed film (half reel to one reel in length) became the industry’s main productDemand for films increasedNarrative clarity became a priorityNew worries about respectability of moving pictures
20What explains the shift in the mode of representation around 1908? Emergence of film as a mass art with the “nickelodeon boom” increased demandCriticism of films whose storylines were unclear suggested the need for narrative efficiency in order to maintain profitabilityFamiliar stories were limitedbroader, more diverse audience less familiar with once taken-for-granted cultural referentsStandardization of the industry evidenced in the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC)Concerns of reformers about the class composition of nickelodeon audiences pushed the industry to try to appeal to a middle class publicTurn to the theatrical and character psychology
21Motion 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, LubinPooled patents for cameras, projectors, film stockEstablished standard price per foot for filmsRegulated the release of new films by participating studiosCharged exhibitors royalties ($2) for using patented projectorsOnly licensed (and vetted exhibitors) could rent MPPC films from exchangesFilm Exchanges could lease films, but not purchase themcame to depend on its novelty—its life span was maybe 4 months
22The Problem of Narrative Clarity Views and Film Index (Sept. 1906):“Moving Picture—for Audiences, not MakersRegardless 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)