Here are key moments in the history and evolution of the cinema.
William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, commissioned by Thomas Alva Edison, builds the first motion-picture camera and names it the Kinetograph.
The Edison Corporation establishes the first motion-picture studio, a Kinetograph production center nicknamed the Black Maria (slang for a police van).
The first Kinetoscope parlor opens at 1155 Broadway in New York City. Spectators can watch films for 25 cents.
In France, Auguste and Louis Lumière hold the first private screening. The brothers invent the Cinématograph, a combination camera and projector. The image of an oncoming train is said to have caused a stampede.
Edison Corporation mechanic Edwin S. Porter turns cameraman, director and producer to make The GreatTrain Robbery. With 14 shots cutting between simultaneous events, this 12-minute short establishes the shot as film's basic element and editing as a central narrative device. It is also the first Western.
Photoplay debuts as the first magazine for movie fans.
In his second big-screen appearance, Charlie Chaplin plays the Little Tramp, his most famous character.
Winsor McCay unleashes Gertie the Dinosaur, the first animated cartoon.
D. W. Griffith's technically brilliant Civil War epic, The Birth of a Nation, introduces the narrative close-up, the flashback and other elements that endure today as the structural principles of narrative filmmaking.
Charlie Chaplin signs on with Mutual Studios and earns an unprecedented $10,000 a week.
The Sheik, directed by George Melford, debuts and establishes star Rudolph Valentino as cinema's best-known lover.
German Shepherd Rin Tin Tin becomes film's first canine star.
Walt Disney creates his first cartoon, "Alice's Wonderland."
Sergei Eisenstein makes Potemkin, a revolutionary portrait of mutiny aboard a battleship. In the hands of Eisenstein, montage is raised to the highest structural role in filmmaking, serving as the unifying element of the medium.
Ben-Hur, costing a record-setting $3.95 million to produce, is released.
Popular vaudevillian Al Jolson astounds audiences with his nightclub act in The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length talkie.
Walt Disney introduces Galloping Gaucho and Steamboat Willie, the first cartoons with sound.
The Academy Awards are handed out for the first time. Wings wins Best Picture.
As head of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, William Hays establishes a code of decency that outlines what is acceptable in films.
Double features emerge as a way for the unemployed to occupy time.
Although a primitive, two-color process was first used in 1922, audiences weren't impressed by Technicolor until a three-color system appeared in Becky Sharp.
Walt Disney's first full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, hits theaters and becomes an instant classic.
The big-screen adaptation of Gone with the Wind premieres, and will go on to gross $192 million, making it one of the most profitable films of all time. It's also one of the longest films, clocking in at 231 minutes.
Spencer Tracy wins his second consecutive Best Actor Oscar. He won the 1937 Oscar for his role in Captains Courageous and the 1938 award for Boys Town.
In Citizen Kane, Orson Welles subordinates all previous technological and cinematic accomplishments to his own essentially cinematic vision. Using newly developed film stocks and a wider, faster lens, Welles pushes the boundaries of montage and mise-en-scène, as well as sound, redefining the medium.
The Best Years of Our Lives debuts, and is immediately recognized as a classic post-War film that accurately—and poignantly—portrays the readjustment families face when loved ones return from battle. The film won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor.
Roberto Rossellini's Neorealist ode to the Italian Resistance, Rome, OpenCity, presents an alternative to Hollywood with its use of street cinematography, grainy black-and-white stocks and untrained actors, lyrically capturing the despair and confusion of post-World War II Europe.
Jean-Luc Godard'sBreathless, typical of the French New Wave use of the jump cut, the hand-held camera and loose, improvised direction, is made for $90,000 in just four weeks. The jump cut's assault on seamless editing and the presumption of time continuity opens new possibilities for filmmakers.
Alfred Hitchcock'sPsycho terrifies audiences and becomes one of the year's most successful films, as well as one of the most memorable psychological thrillers.
West Side Story is adapted for the big screen, and will go on to win Oscars for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (George Chakiris), Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno), and Directing (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins).
The X rating is replaced by NC-17 (no children under 17).
Lost in Yonkers is edited on an Avid Media Composer system, the first non-linear editing system to allow viewing at film's required “real-time”-viewing rate of 24 frames per second. By converting film into digital bits, film can now be cut on a computer.
The Blair Witch Project hits theaters and becomes an instant cult classic. It grosses more than $125 million at the box office and cost only $30,000 to make.
Warner Bros. announces that 11-year-old British actor Daniel Radcliffe will play the titular wizard in Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, the first film to be adapted from the wildly popular series of young adult books by J. K. Rowling. The film is due out Thanksgiving 2001.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences creates as new category for the Oscars: Best Animated Feature. Shrek wins the trophy.
A potential strike by the Writers Guild of America threatens to cripple Hollywood as the WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers grapple over several sticking points in their contract, including payments to writers when films and TV shows go to video or are broadcast as reruns.
The first installments of both the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies premiere. Both go on to gross more than $300 million at the box office.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding becomes the most profitable movie of all time. It earns more than $200 million at the box office, while costing only about $5 million to make.
Finding Nemo replaces The Lion King as the highest-grossing animated film of all time. Finding Nemo doesn't hold the honor for long. Shrek 2 shoots to the top of the list in 2004.