The making and showing of motion pictures became a source of profit almost as soon as the process was invented. Upon seeing how successful their new invention, and its product, was in their native France, the Lumières quickly set about touring the Continent to exhibit the first films privately to royalty and publicly to the masses. In each country, they would normally add new, local scenes to their catalogue and, quickly enough, found local entrepreneurs in the various countries of Europe to buy their equipment and photograph, export, import and screen additional product commercially. The Oberammergau Passion Play of 1898 was the first commercial motion picture ever produced. Other pictures soon followed, and motion pictures became a separate industry that overshadowed the vaudeville world. Dedicated theaters and companies formed specifically to produce and distribute films, while motion picture actors became major celebrities and commanded huge fees for their performances. By 1917 Charlie Chaplin had a contract that called for an annual salary of one million dollars.

From 1931 to 1956, film was also the only image storage and playback system for television programming until the introduction of videotape recorders.

In the United States today, much of the film industry is centered around Hollywood. Other regional centers exist in many parts of the world, such as Mumbai-centered Bollywood, the Indian film industry’s Hindi cinema which produces the largest number of films in the world. Whether the ten thousand-plus feature length films a year produced by the Valley pornographic film industry should qualify for this title is the source of some debate. Though the expense involved in making movies has led cinema production to concentrate under the auspices of movie studios, recent advances in affordable film making equipment have allowed independent film productions to flourish.

Profit is a key force in the industry, due to the costly and risky nature of filmmaking; many films have large cost overruns, a notorious example being Kevin Costner’s Waterworld. Yet many filmmakers strive to create works of lasting social significance. The Academy Awards (also known as “the Oscars”) are the most prominent film awards in the United States, providing recognition each year to films, ostensibly based on their artistic merits.

There is also a large industry for educational and instructional films made in lieu of or in addition to lectures and texts.


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