Everyone’s been to the movies. Whether it’s for a first date or to hang with the crew, the movie theater is always a fun time. Sure, the popcorn is overpriced, the sodas are weirdly large, and there’s always some idiot who forgets to silence his phone. Even with the pitfalls, there’s nothing quite like seeing a movie on the big screen.
Movies haven’t always been like the modern experience. In fact, you would hardly recognize the movies if you went back in time from when they first started showing films. This timeline is a quick and easy primer to get you acquainted with the movies and how they’ve evolved over the past century.
Technically, the first movie is shown in Indiana. A guy named Charles Francis Jenkins used his special invention, the Phantoscope, to show a woman dancing on a wall. This film was very short and had no sound. Edison bought the patent and changed the name to the Vitascope.
The first film scores released. Usually this was just sheet music that would be performed live in the theater by an in-house pianist or organist.
First full-time cinema is opened in Los Angeles. The films are mostly short and have no sound.
The first Nickelodeon opens in Pittsburgh, PA. These theaters got their names from their 5-cent admission charge, and they typically showed short, silent films.
Birth of a Nation, the first feature-length film forces Nickelodeons to charge more for admission. This is the first step towards movie theaters as we know them today.
Movie theaters are showing more feature length films by now. Most theaters are owned by production studios, creating the building blocks of Hollywood.
The first talkie is released. Previous films had been released with sounds on discs, but The Jazz Singer was the first to have dialogue synchronized during a film. It changed the game for forever.
First drive-in movie theater opens in New Jersey. People could sit in the comfort of their own cars to watch movies.
Antitrust laws force Hollywood studios to de-couple from the movie theaters. That means that all films can be shown in any theater. This also leads to some of the movie theater brands that we know and love today.
First movie theater debuts stereophonic sound alongside a giant screen. This is the true beginning of the modern movie theater era.
First digital projectors were unveiled to the public. No longer were huge reels of film needed to show a movie at the theaters.
As you can see, the movie theater business has gone through some pretty major changes over its history. From silent 5 minute shorts to fully digital displays, movie theaters of the past would be hardly recognizable in today. Interestingly, movie theaters have stayed about the same for the past 50 years or so.