How is it that Hollywood has survived as an industry — even as it seems to fight every new idea that comes along, from sound to color to TV to the Internet?
How have the movies endured as an art form — even as many of the most creative movie-makers have resisted adopting new tools and technologies?
As a movie fan and someone interested in how innovation happens in the world, I wanted to dive into those two questions. So I wrote Inventing the Movies.
It’s the story of how new technologies and business models helped Hollywood survive and thrive, from the 1890s to the 21st century. It’s also an exploration of why individuals (and entire industries) can be so hostile to new ideas.
Did you know that Thomas Edison, one of the forefathers of the movie industry, didn’t think it’d be profitable to develop a movie projector?
It’s all in the book — as are the people who are shaping the future of the movies today, like Steve Jobs, Pixar founders John Lasseter and Ed Catmull, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Steven Soderbergh, Robert Rodriguez, Netflix founder Reed Hastings, Lance Weiler, and Mark Cuban.
...That even after “The Jazz Singer,” many Hollywood execs considered talking pictures a passing fad?
...That there were two separate attempts to introduce a sense of smell to the movies?
...That we wouldn’t have had VCRs and home video if not for Bing Crosby?
...That some of the first experiments with using electronic movie cameras on the set happened in the early 1970s, but most Hollywood releases are still shot on film today?
...That “Tron” may have been shut out from the Academy Awards because voters regarded the use of computers to create special effects as cheating?
...That even the almighty Morgan Freeman couldn’t convince theater owners to experiment with releasing movies in theaters and on the Internet at the same time?
I wanted to write something that’d be fun to read for people who love movies and are also creators and innovators at heart. What I realized when I was finished (and once a few people outside the movie industry had read the book) is that the example of Hollywood’s “love-hate relationship” with new ideas seems to be relevant to people working in any field.
I hope you’ll check out the free preview, listen to some podcasts about the book, read the reviews... and maybe even buy it, in print or handy digital form.
— Scott Kirsner