The Evolution of Movies

Subject: Art
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 6
Word count: 1637
Topics: Art History, Film Analysis, Innovation, Pop Art


The movie industry has over the past century emerged as a giant industry that employs millions of people, while providing the population with entertainment and leisurely enjoyment that is unrivaled elsewhere. However, the history of the film industry has not always been like that. The journey through the evolution of movies since its inception in the late 19th century has been long and tedious. It is only beginning the second-half of the 20th century did the movie industry become the beautiful fascination as we know it today. Movies and cinemas evolved from showing silent black and white images to advanced 3D digital movies that are spliced together in computerized devices (Perez, 2015). The growth and advancement in the movies has been such tremendous that it is currently impossible to imagine what used to be referred to as cinema or moving pictures a century ago and what movies in present day have evolved to become. One of the aspects that brought change in this industry is the advancement of technology in the movie industry. Over the last century, there has been a tremendous advancement of technology within the film industry thereby allowing movies to show stories that are more realistic and of greater contents, and  with better sound, color, quality and computer-generated imagery compared to those in the past (Peck, 2015). Therefore, movies have greatly evolved since the 19th century, and their rating system has an impact on the type of audience expected to watch them.

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Transformation of Film length and story telling

Movies have greatly evolved since the 19th century, with movies now becoming longer and narrative form or story telling becoming the dominant form of movies. The evolution of movies from the cinema or motion pictures of the 19th century to the movies of present day is such tremendous, especially considering that the cinema and motion pictures only emphasized on movement of the picture, but there was no sound, plot or story to tell (, 2013). Therefore, by all standards, the 19th century movies were primitive compared to the present day movies, where we are now accustomed to elaborate film effects, a clear storyline, and accompanying sound and color appropriate for the nature of the story narrated by the film.

The fact that movies have evolved greatly since the 19th century is evidenced by several factors. First, the early films of the 19th century were unusually short, lasting on average between several seconds to a few minutes. The first motion picture show was developed and staged by the Lumiere Brothers in France, lasting for a period of between 5-8 minutes, and the people were delighted and huge crowds attracted (National Science and Media Museum, 2011). However, a movie lasting for between 5-8 minutes in present day would be simply considered a spoiler, often constituting trailers that are basically compositions of part of a full movie for advertisement purposes. Otherwise, a movie worth only 5-8 minutes would attract very few, if any audiences, considering that the modern movies run for an average of one hour and above.

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Secondly, the movies of the 19th century were merely cut-pieces of pictures in motion, with no elaborate theme of storytelling (, 2013). In this respect, crowds gathered to watch with amusement the movement of oceans, trains and a raft of other components such as human pictures or street cars. It is no wonder, therefore, that film components such as sound, which is essential for storytelling in the modern movies, were meaningless and unnecessary.

Nevertheless, in the present day, movies without elaborate stories to tell and appropriate sounds to advance the storytelling would not qualify as true movies. Indeed, in the modern world, even the mere picture displays have a logical arrangement and a story intended to tell. Therefore, it is evident that movies have greatly evolved since the 19th century, with some of the greatest achievements of the movies evolution being the increase in time display of the films from few seconds or minutes to hours, the incorporation of sound and color effects and the fashioning of movies to tell an elaborate story.

Transformation from Motion picture enthusiast creators to giant movie industry

Further, movies have greatly evolved since the 19th century where movies were merely displays of pictures in motion by individual motion picture enthusiasts, to becoming a giant industry where hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in movie production. The 19th century movies were generated by individuals who had fascination with the idea of creating moving pictures, with the target end result being to impress people with the genius of such high creativity and innovativeness. However, when it had become apparent that the idea of transforming still pictures into motion pictures was real, the enthusiasts realized that their genius could become a source of livelihood. Therefore, the 19th century motion picture makers continued to develop more motion pictures and charged audiences who were eager to be entertained by this new development (, 2013).

Nevertheless, even with the high fascination and enthusiasm that the concept of motion pictures elicited from the crowds, the movie audience of the 19th century was meager compared to what the modern movie attracts. The largest crowd of audiences that a 19th century movie show could attract was not in the upwards of a hundred people due to various restrictive factors. The movie shows were restricted to viewership on places where the room could be darkened, as well as venues where accompanying enhancements could be accessible such as music halls (National Science and Media Museum, 2011).

On the contrary, the modern movies have surpassed all imaginations in terms of the hundreds of millions of dollars invested for the production of a single movie, as well as the revenues such a single movie is able to generate, which runs into billions of dollars. For example, according to the Business Insider, among the most expensive Hollywood movies of all time are Pirates of the Caribbean produced in 2007 at a budget of $341 million, as well as Titanic, produced in 1997 at a budget of $294.4 million, while generating gross revenues of $963.4 million and $2.2 billion, respectively (Acuna & Guerrasio, 2016).

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The other major evolution in movies since the 19th century is related to the audience attendance and viewership for a single movie, as well as in the number of locations in which a single movie can launch simultaneously. For example, the Hollywood movie, Gone with the Wind is ranked as the movie with the highest attendance of all time, with the single movie having been able to sell a total of 208.5 million tickets to the audience (McClintock, 2017). In this respect, there is no doubt that movies have greatly evolved since the 19th century, from simple motion enthusiast creations to serious investments and revenue generation entities that wholesomely constitute the Hollywood film industry, which in the year 2017 was able to hit total ticket sales worth $11.22 billion (McClintock, 2017).

Transformation from movie censorship and arrests to movie ratings

The movies have greatly evolved since the 19th century where movies considered inappropriate for the society were prohibited, banned from the theaters and the creators of such movies arrested, to the modern movie era where people have the freedom to watch any movie. In the 19th century and the first-half of the 20th century, there did not exist a form system of categorizing or rating movies, with the society, through lobby groups and activists being responsible for mobilizing opposition to certain movies deemed unsuitable for the society. Chicago was the first state to enact the first movie censorship law in 1907, after which many states and cities followed the lead and enacted laws that censored, prohibited, banned and provided for arrests of people involved in creating obscene and violent movies (, n.d.).

Thus, by 1909, several movie theaters in New York had been closed down for showing indecent movies, while in 1915, the film Birth of a Nation sparked riots in several states due to its racial slurs and was banned. It is only in 1957 that the Supreme Court of the US paved way for all kinds of films viewership in the case Roth vs. United States, when the court ruled that viewing sexually explicit content was a right protected under the First Amendment (, n.d.).

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Subsequently, the birth of a new era of modern movie content creation without censorship began, leading to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) developing a film rating system categorizing which films could be viewed by what age category of people (, n.d.). Thus, in the modern movie era, people are free to watch any film, but the MPAA rating system categorizes Movies and films can as PG, G, NC-17, and PG-13. A G rating movie content is suitable for general viewing, a PG rating movie is to be viewed under parental guidance, PG-13 rating not to be viewed by persons under the age of 13 and NC-17 not to be viewed by persons under the age of 17 (Peck, 2015).


The film and movie industry has evolved ever since the beginning of the 19th century. There has been a tremendous advancement of technology within the film industry thereby allowing movies to incorporate sound, color and other picture effects, while telling an elaborate story. The major achievement of the evolution of films is that movies have now becoming longer and narrative form or story telling becoming the dominant form of movies. Additionally, the movie industry has grown to become a giant industry where hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in budgets and billions generated in revenues. The evolution of movies has also seen movies change from an era where they were prohibited and banned from the theaters to the modern movie era where people have the freedom to watch any movie under the existing ratings.

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  2. Manley, B. (2011). Moving Pictures: The History of Early Cinema. ProQuest, 1-15.
  3. McClintock, P. (December 31, 2017). 2017 Box Office: Global Revenue Hits Record $40B Even as Movie Attendance Plummets in U.S. Hollywood reporter. Retrieved from:
  4. National Science and Media Museum. (7 January 2011). A very short history of cinema. Retrieved from:
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  6. Peck, K. (2015). The Economic Impact of the MPAA Rating System on Types of Films Made From 2004-2014. UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 2409.
  7. Perez, C. A. (2015). A Content Analysis of the MPAA Rating System and its Evolution. University Honors Program Theses. 131.
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