The emergence of Hollywood as an Institution
While the film industry is constantly reinventing itself, it is possible to pinpoint the moment when Hollywood dreams became an institution of entertainment for viewers.
It didn’t take longer than 14 years for the first film to be shot in Hollywood, California after the invention of film projection occurred in 1895. (1) The world was ready to make movies and Hollywood emerged as the escapism capitol of the world. The name Hollywood quickly became synonymous with getting away from one’s reality and escaping to a world of magic.
While films were made in the first two decades of the twentieth century, only the landmark film “The Gold Rush” starring Charlie Chaplin brought the spell of cinema magic to the masses. It was a calculated film that was presented to the world’s audiences in a palatable format – the feature film. “The Gold Rush” was presented as a 96 minute film but 2,952 minutes of celluloid were burned in filming the picture. (2) The footage was edited to the tight film that was presented in movie theaters.
This type of formulaic consumption of people, scenes, settings, plots, and storylines has remained the normal format of cinema in the 84 years since Charlie Chaplin was seen being wind swept out of a snowy log cabin. The pratfalls and gags that are used in today’s cinema still rely on the same timing that was defined by Chaplin in the earliest films.
Cinema’s biggest rival was actual human beings performing live in vaudeville acts. To claim their part of the profits, the Hollywood institution not only stole vaudeville’s biggest acts and put them on screen, but also created a new experience. Later to be coined the “flicker effect”, Hollywood truly was able to institutionalize moviegoers by trapping their senses for nearly two hours. At 45 frames per second (at which speed the flicker effect works to simulate still images and moving images) humans were being admitted into Cinema as an institution.
The word institution often means that it is a device of its own trappings. Cinema became so big (literally) so quickly that the human mind was institutionalized and re-educated about how the human brain experiences enjoyment.
1) Belton, John, American Cinema, American Culture, McGraw Hill, 2008, p. 9
2) IMDB Professional information as listed on “The Gold Rush” page (as useable source?)