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Early Film - Cinema of Attraction

            The first decade of film exhibition (1896-1908) saw films exhibited in a great variety of venues rather than in special theaters. It is this period that this paper addresses. It was the work of Tom Gunning with his scholarship with others, into what he termed the "rapture and difference" of the time (1993 p3.). The context, for him, was a significant one and his (along with Andre Gaudreault) use of the phrase "cinema of attraction" was created (Gaudreault & Gunning, 1989 p49). For Gunning the early filmgoers were seeking the film-going experience as a means to experience something outside of themselves. At the time, that was film. The films described by Gunning were indicative of the atmosphere of the time for the viewing public.
             To correct what appeared to be false assumptions by historians and theorists up until this time, this concept was not just "modernity" (Appendix 1). Rather, it was an approach that took into account the industry, culture, and technology of the time as it related to the diverse nature of the cinema audience at that time. The Library of Congress (www.loc.gov) uses the term "actuality film" and indicates that it was significant that the movies of the time began to be shown in vaudeville and burlesque theatres. These "attractions" or "actualities" were part of the theaters' bill of live dramas, comedians, and singers. Film audiences displayed a radical change in the first two decades of film production. Between 1890 and 1917 there was a significant transformation in the history of American film. Among these was the exhibition sites, the practices involved in the filmmaking process itself, audience demographics, and exhibition sites (Kiel and Stamp, 2004). All of these factors were designed for what was perceived by the growing film industry as fulfilling the changing taste of particular audiences. The significance was that at the end of this period cinema took the form it was to take for many years under the studio system (Stokes and Malby, 1999).

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