In 1911, the motion picture industry was just beginning to boom. Movies were still silent, and black-and-white, but this article predicts how the industry will change once color and sound are added.
Is it too much to say that the moving picture is the theatrical show of the future? Yes, if we have got always to see simple black-and-white pictures, soundless and colorless; no, if the invention is to take the course which it seems destined to take, and to develop hugely into the spoken word, the musical accompaniment, and the hiring of the greatest singers to take part in the humblest of plays.
At the time, movies were churned out like ephemeral novelties. They were shown for one night, and the actors were unknown. But over time, people began to recognize some of their favorite actors who appeared in many films. They would cheer for them when they appeared on screen. But they had no idea who the actors were. Stage acting is where the fame and glory was. But it, too, had its drawbacks.
The moving-picture business is making greater and greater appeals to stage people every day. In most cases the pay is better than that on the stage. Then the employment is steady. The bane of the theatrical business has always been the long season of unemployment. A moving-picture actor works fifty-two weeks in the year, and for him there is no long drought in which he parades the Rialto hungrily and pulls his belt closer to keep his appetite in control and wistfully haunts the booking offices. Besides, he has a chance at family life; he can live with the folks.
There is one heavy drawback, and that is the absence of a chance for fame. Every actor wants to make a reputation, and until now the moving-picture man has merely got the cash and let the credit go. His name appears in no programme, his acting gets only a cash reward. But that is coming to an end. The names of the casts are posted int he Motion Picture Magazine, the organ of the trade; their pictures are painted there, and, as has been said, the Edison Company has started the innovation of printing regular programmes with the full case, just as is done on every stage. When the other companies fall into line the last step in securing the full dignity of the stage to the moving-picture actor will have been taken.
The audiences themselves are compelling it. Where plays by certain stock companies are shown the spectators get to known the faces of the actors and to find their favorites. It is a common thing for an audience in many parts of the country to burst out in applause when the face of some favorite actor appears on the screen or to hiss some well-known villain. Naturally such audiences are consumed with curiosity to know the names of the heroes they are cheering, and the companies must yield to the demand. The publication of the photographs and names of the leading stock actors and actresses is a sign of it.
It’s a fascinating read from a time when people were still experimenting with the business and technology of a new industry. The article ends by noting: “We are just at the dawn of the moving picture as a feature of modern life… It is impossible to conjecture how great a part it may play in our civilization by, say, the dawn of the twenty-first century.”
IS THE MOVING PICTURE TO BE THE PLAY OF THE FUTURE? Inventions Which Will Vastly Increase Its Capabilities — How These Dramas Are Obtained and Why Actors Give Up the Stage to Enter This New Profession. (PDF)
From August 20, 1911
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