The origins of 35mm film can be attributed to George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak Company, and his development of flexible celluloid film in 1889. This innovation, combined with Thomas Edison’s invention of the Kinetoscope, a device for individual viewing of moving images, spurred further exploration into the realm of motion pictures. Edison and his assistant, William Dickson, initially employed 35mm film with four perforations per frame for the Kinetoscope.
In 1895, Auguste and Louis Lumière unveiled the Cinématographe, a portable device capable of capturing, processing, and projecting moving images. The Lumière brothers utilized 35mm film with a single, central perforation per frame, which would later be replaced by the now-standardized format of four perforations per frame on each side.
In the early 20th century, 35mm film became the established standard for motion picture production and exhibition. The format’s advantages, such as its capacity for high-quality image reproduction, portability, and ease of duplication, contributed to its widespread adoption. As the motion picture industry expanded, further advancements were made to the 35mm format, including the development of color film and the introduction of sound.
Technicolor, a pioneering color process, was introduced in the 1920s and employed a complex system of dye transfer that enabled the reproduction of a wide range of colors on 35mm film. The advent of sound in motion pictures, with the release of “The Jazz Singer” in 1927, necessitated an alteration to the 35mm film format to accommodate the inclusion of an optical soundtrack, which was typically placed along the edge of the film strip.
Throughout the 20th century, 35mm film remained the dominant format for motion picture production and distribution, despite the emergence of alternative formats such as 16mm, 8mm, 65mm, and 70mm film. The advent of digital technology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, has had a significant impact on the motion picture industry, leading to a gradual decline in the use of 35mm film.
While digital technology has largely supplanted 35mm film in contemporary motion picture production and exhibition, the format’s historical significance and artistic merits cannot be understated. The development and refinement of 35mm film played an integral role in shaping the motion picture industry and, by extension, the broader landscape of visual storytelling.