We thought that broadcast radio was as good as it gets in terms of entertainment– did we ever underestimate US technology! It is evident now that motion pictures have taken over as the #1 form of entertainment: currently, about 90 million people visit the movie theater each week compared to 50 million per week in 1920. Why has movie attendance skyrocketed so dramatically? The answer is the invention of talking motion pictures.
Before 1926, the 50 million people seeing movies each week were watching silent films. Nine short years later, 90 million of us are seeing and hearing the movies we attend each week. In 1926, Warner Brothers and Western Electric released the sound-on-disc system, which allowed for pre-recorded sounds to be recorded onto wax that could be played back at a later time.
This was first used to try out pre-recorded sound effects and music. Many viewers and movie-makers were skeptical of the direction that motion pictures were taking– a lot of people believed that talking movies would never take the place of the silent films that we have been accustomed to for so long. But in 1927 with the release of The Jazz Singer, one of the first talking-picture movies, all the critics realized they were wrong. The Jazz Singer was a box office hit, and there was a major realization that movies could not revert back to their pre-talking days.
Movie-making has become a central figure in our society. The “headquarters” of movie making has shifted from New York to Hollywood, California where there is access to cheaper land and labor, but also a climate that allows for year-round filming with few weather concerns.
Movie-making continues to be a fantastic economic enterprise: it is providing jobs across many disciplines such as acting, producing, filming, editing, music making, etc. Additionally, the finished movies are stimulating our economy as people spend more money on entertainment.
The movie industry is just beginning its boom–entertainers and movie makers say that there is much more in store for the film industry in the future, so keep watching!
1. “The Jazz Age: The American 1920s.” 2011. Digital History. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=455
2. “Talking Motion Pictures.” Virginia University. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ug00/3on1/movies/talkies.html