Hollywood is in the business of weaving dreams and turning our wildest imaginations into reality. Well, onscreen at the very least. With the degree of illusion and magic movies can now produce, it is quite interesting to note that like every other great invention, it had humble beginnings as well. Curious as to how it all began? Let us take you all the way back to the 1800s.


1800s – Motion Toys

Will you believe us if we tell you that the first movies were no more than mere toys designed to trick the eye? These motion toys displayed a series of still frames or photos in quick succession to create the illusion of movement. The most popular ones at the time, and also the most familiar even today, are the zoetrope and the thaumatrope.

What was the first movie ever made? It was that of a gentleman riding a horse. It was created with credit to Edward Muybridge in 1872, they accomplished the task by placing 12 cameras along a racetrack to capture the sequence necessary for the shot!

By 1885, William H. Walker and George Eastman helped advance motion photography even further by developing the first film for shooting in this format. Their lead was followed by Louis and Auguste Lumiere, and they gave the world the cinematographe. The hand-cranked machine was capable of capturing pictures and projecting the frames in quick succession.


1900s – Motion Picture Technology

It’s safe to say that the advancement of motion picture technology. Aspiring filmmakers continued to make investments toward new technology, exploring all the possibilities that came with editing and putting together backdrops for their projects. Among the earliest and most famous films created during this period was The Great Train Robbery, which was directed by Edwin S. Porter in 1903.

In 1905, people were introduced to the earliest form of cinema. These were called “Nickelodeons” and films cost about 5-cents for people to watch. The technology may be simple when compared to today’s standards, but these Nickelodeons helped the industry prosper all the way to the 1920s. It generated public interest, which opened the doors for filmmakers to start making back some of the investment money for their work!

Theaters also became instrumental when it came to spreading World War I propaganda. By the time the war was over, however, a new cultural boom was ushered: Hollywood.


1910 – The First Movie Made in Hollywood

Most people believe that the first film shot in Hollywood was Cecil B. DeMille’s The Squaw Man, where the director chose to switch locations at the last minute. This film was made in 1914 but prior to it, the film In Old California was made with credit to DW Griffith. It was shot in the village of Hollywood back in 1910, making it the earliest production to be shot in the locale.

During this period, one of the most famous names in the industry was Charlie Chaplin.


1920 – Famous Directors, Movie Stars, and the First Film Studio

As the industry continued to progress, it followed that actors and actresses began to gain fame as well. During this period, there were hundreds of films being released annually. Hollywood was gaining notoriety and a reputation for luxury, leisure, and lavish parties. The industry was alive with electricity and everyone wanted a piece of it for themselves.

It was a great time for directors, in particular, as they were able to trademark certain styles of filmmaking. This had not been possible previously due to certain limitations in filming. It was also during this time that the first film studio was established in the United States. In 1923, brothers Albert, Harry, Jack, and Sam used a money loan to get their company officially incorporated. Thus, Warner Brothers Pictures was born.


1950 – The Television Set

Post-war United States saw an increase in people’s affluence. This, in turn, led to various trends. One such fad that swept the nation was owning television sets. During this decade, it is said that over 10 million households owned one. Some might have even taken out loans just to get one! This spelled competition for Hollywood, which is why they shifted their movies’ target and looked to the American youth instead.

For this reason, many films created during the 1950s and onwards depicted stories about teenage rebellion. Edgier stories and sensuality were also introduced. Along with the rise of such stories, movie stars such as Marlon Brando, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and Ava Gardner took center stage.

Nonetheless, studios continued to lose money despite their best efforts. This carried through to the 1960s. In fact, the slowest production year in the history of Hollywood happened in 1963 when only 120 movies were released. By the 1970s, many studios could no longer afford to make investments, while those who were able to survive the depression turned to other money-making ventures. This included the establishment of theme parks centered on movies.

It was clear to everyone, however, that The Golden Age of Hollywood had come to an end.


1970 to 1980 – A Slow Resurgence

Things did eventually turn around for Hollywood during the 1970s. This began with the success of films such as Star Wars and Jaws. These two became the highest-grossing films in film history. With the introduction of VHS, laser discs, and so on, studios found another source of revenue for themselves. While it increased their profits, very few people spent the gas money to actually go to the theatres to see the movies.

Some would argue that the films that came in were generic and were lacking in creativity. To compensate for the lack of theatre-goers, studios created films for audience appeal. Only a few were true standouts and even fewer can be considered classics. While not entirely terrible, the decade became known for its “simple entertainment” that had little creative merit.

The 1980s also saw the prolific use of special effects in films. Because of this, production costs increased, while ticket sales continued to decrease. That said, there was also a degree of success for others during this period. Many of which went on to spawn big franchises over the years, including the likes of Batman, Terminator, and Return of the Jedi.

1990 to 2000 – The Great Shift in Hollywood

Change seems to be the only constant thing in Hollywood, whether for good or bad. By the 1990s, theatre attendance went up thanks to newly-installed multi-screen Cineplexes that became prevalent all over the United States. Special effects use in film had also significantly improved, which was a major crowd-drawer.

Behind the scenes, however, it was a different story. Due to the high cost of making films, the expensive fees for movie stars, advertising campaigns, and so on, studios were still trying to pay off loans and make ends meet. It should also be noted that VCR was still quite popular during this time, though they did eventually become obsolete when the DVD was finally introduced.

This brings us to the present time, where much has been achieved in the movie industry when it comes to technology. Today, we have things such as Blu-ray discs and IMAX theaters, which elevate  viewing experience to an entirely new level. Not to be forgotten are the streaming services that allow people to watch new movies and shows right on their computers, smartphones, and other personal devices. Everything has been made a degree more personal and accessible, which is a far cry from how it all began.