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Although the start of the history of film is not clearly defined, the commercial, public screening of ten of Lumière brothers’ short films in Paris on 28 December 1895 can be regarded as the breakthrough of projected cinematographic motion pictures. There had been earlier cinematographic results and screenings but these lacked either the quality or the momentum that propelled the cinématographe Lumière into a worldwide success.
Soon film production companies were established all over the world. The first decade of motion picture saw film moving from a novelty to an established mass entertainment industry.
The earliest films were in black and white, under a minute long and without recorded sound.
During the 1890s films became several minutes long and started to consist of several shots. The first rotating camera for taking panning shots was built in 1898. 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 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. 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.