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This article may be too technical for most readers to understand.(June 2020)
Movies, or films, are a type of visual communication which uses moving pictures and sound to tell stories or teach people something. Most people watch (view) movies as a type of entertainment or a way to have fun. For some people, fun movies can mean movies that make them laugh, while for others it can mean movies that make them cry, or feel afraid.
Most movies are made so that they can be shown on screen in Cinemas and at home. After movies are shown in Cinemas for a period of a few weeks or months, they may be marketed through several other medias. They are shown on pay television or cable television, and sold or rented on DVD disks or videocassette tapes, so that people can watch the movies at home. You can also download or stream movies. Older movies are shown on television broadcasting stations.
A movie camera or video camera takes pictures very quickly, usually at 24 or 25 pictures (frames) every second. When a movie projector, a computer, or a television shows the pictures at that rate, it looks like the things shown in the set of pictures are really moving. Sound is either recorded at the same time, or added later. The sounds in a movie usually include the sounds of people talking (which is called dialogue), music (which is called the "soundtrack"), and sound effects, the sounds of activities that are happening in the movie (such as doors opening or guns being fired). In the 20th century the camera used photographic film. The product is still often called a "film" even though there usually is no film.
How are they made?
A screenwriter writes a script, which is the story of the movie with dialogue and things that the actors will say and do. A producer hires people to work on the movie and gets all of the money that will be needed to pay for the actors and the equipment. Producers usually get the money by borrowing it from a bank or by getting investors to lend money to the movie production. Some producers work for a movie studio; other producers are independent (they do not work for a movie studio).
Actors and directors read scripts to find out what to say and what to do. The actors memorize the words from the script that they will say in the movie, and learn the actions that the script tells them to do. Then, the director tells the actors what to do and a cameraman takes motion pictures of them with a motion picture camera.
When filming has finished, an editor puts the moving pictures together in a way that tells the whole story within a set amount of time. Audio engineers and sound engineers record music and singing and join it with the moving pictures. When the movie is done, many copies of the movie are made by movie labs and put onto film reels. Then the reels are sent to cinemas. An electric machine called a projector shines a very bright light through the film, and people sitting in a dark room see it on a big screen.
A genre is a word for a type of movie or a style of movie. Movies can be fictional (made up), or documentary (showing 'real life'), or a mix of the two. Although hundreds of movies are made every year, there are very few that do not follow a small number of set plots, or stories. Some movies mix together two or more genres.
- Action movies have a lot of exciting effects like car chases and gun fights, involving stuntmen. They usually involve 'goodies' and 'baddies', so war and crime are common subjects. Action movies usually need very little effort to watch, since the plot is normally simple. For example, in Die Hard, terrorists take control of a skyscraper and ask for a big ransom in exchange for not killing the hostage workers. One hero somehow manages to save everyone. Action movies do not usually make people cry, but if the action movie is also a drama, emotion will be involved.
- Adventure Movies usually involve a hero who sets out on a quest to save the world or loved ones.
- Animated movies use artificial images like talking cartoons to tell a story. These movies used to be drawn by hand, one frame at a time, but are now made on computers. They can be 2D animated or 3D animated.
- Buddy movies involve 2 heroes, one must save the other, both must overcome obstacles. Buddy movies often involve comedy, but there is also some emotion, because of the close friendship between the 'buddies'.
- Comedies are funny movies about people being silly or doing unusual things or being in silly or unusual situations that make the audience laugh.
- Documentaries are movies that are (or claim to be) about real people and real events. They are nearly always serious and may involve strongly emotional subjects, for example cruelty.
- Dramas are serious, and often about people falling in love or needing to make a big decision in their life. They tell stories about relationships between people. They usually follow a basic plot where one or two main characters (each actor plays a character) have to 'overcome' (get past) an obstacle (the thing stopping them) to get what they want.
- Tragedies are always dramas, and are about people in trouble. For example, a husband and wife who are divorcing must each try to prove to a court of law that they are the best person to take care of their child. Emotion (feelings) are a big part of the movie and the audience (people watching the movie) may get upset and even cry.
- Film noir movies are 1940s-era detective dramas about crime and violence.
- Family movies are made to be good for the entire family. They are mainly made for children but often entertaining for adults as well. Disney is famous for their family movies.
- Horror movies use fear to excite the audience. Music, lighting and sets (man-made places in movie studios where the movie is made) are all designed to add to the feeling.
- Romantic Comedies (Rom-Coms) are usually love stories about 2 people from different worlds, who must overcome obstacles to be together. Rom-Coms are usually light-hearten, but may include some emotion.
- Comedy horror movies blend horror and comic motifs in its plots. Movies in this genre sometimes use black comedy as the main form of humor.
- Science fiction movies are set in the future or in outer space. Some use their future or alien settings to ask questions about the meaning of life or how we should think about life. Science fiction movies often use special effects to create images of alien worlds, outer space, alien creatures, and spaceships.
- Fantasy movies include magical and impossible things that any real human being cannot do.
- Thrillers are usually about a mystery, strange event, or crime that needs to be solved. The audience is kept guessing until the final minutes, when there are usually 'twists' in the plot (surprises).
- Suspense movies keep you on the edge of your seat. They usually have multiple twists that confuse the watcher.
- Western movies tell stories about cowboys in the western United States in the 1870s and 1880s. They are usually action movies, but with historical costumes. Some involve Native Americans. Not all films that are set in the American West are made there. For example, Western films made in Italy are called Spaghetti Westerns. Some films can also use Western plots even if they are set in other places.
Business of making movies
Most movies lose money but some make profits in the hundreds of millions, be they dollars, euro or pounds. In India movies have become an enormous part of the economy. The industry has always been dominated by a few major movie studios like MGM/UA, Warner Bros., Columbia, Lucasfilm, Paramount or Disney.
There are many large companies that provide all of the services needed to make movies, such as special effects, lighting, set building. Many of these employees belong to trade unions who say how much their members must be paid. A huge number of smaller companies also offer services, such as music studios (which record the music for original movie sound tracks) and CGI computer animation.
Finally there are movie distribution companies (which send movies around the world or around a country), and advertising companies who let people know about the movie and promote it (try to make people want to see the movie).
Movies with famous stars and large budgets (lots of money), are designed to have a wide appeal, so that hopefully millions of people will pay to see them. These most expensive movies are called blockbusters.
Special effects can add a huge amount to the cost of a movie, especially the newest CGI effects, but people have come to expect them and every blockbuster movie tries to outdo the last. Even in 2008, some movies cost up to $200 million to make.
Very successful movies can make many times that amount in profit, and that's why the studios keep producing them. This kind of movie will have a lot of promotion through television advertising, billboards and internet sites.
In blockbuster movies, there is usually a happy ending, in which all of the problems in the plot (story) are figured out or fixed and almost everyone (except the baddie) live happily ever after. Some movies have been so successful that the studios keep releasing more and more sequels, or movies with the same characters and basic plots.
At the opposite end of the scale to the blockbuster, there is the independent, art, or Indie movie. These are usually made by small movie companies, or even just a small group of people that do not have much money. An example is The Blair Witch Project, which cost only about $60,000, but which has so far taken perhaps $200 million in ticket and DVD sales. Movies like this are very unusual and usually become popular 'underground' (word of mouth advertising), so that they become cult, or popular but not mainstream.
Independent movies often tell more creative or unusual (strange) stories, or may have sad endings that do not appeal to the big studios, because they can not be sure how the public will react to them. They rarely make a lot of money, but if they are successful, the big studios will quickly try to get the people involved to sign a contract with them, by offering them a lot of money to make another movie. Often the new movie, with its big budget and its stars will be less successful than the first.
- Big Ten (movie studios), America's ten largest movie studios