AHC/WI: Victorian Era coincides with the Golden Age of Hollywood

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Mr_Fanboy, Dec 2, 2019.

  1. Mr_Fanboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    There are two parts to my question:

    1) With no point of divergence before 1800, how far could the technology necessary to jumpstart a functional film industry have advanced without meaningfully speeding up technological advancement outside of anything directly pertaining to this topic? I assume that the first step would be to spot the early photographical industry a few Tesla-level geniuses, but what else would need to happen?

    2) Now, regardless of whether our timeline’s Queen Victoria is born and comes to rule the United Kingdom, imagine that the latter half of the 19th century in this timeline is roughly convergent to our own in terms of politics, economics, culture, science, and social development in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere... but for a much, much more mature film industry, one roughly half a century ahead of our own. Feature-length films, animation, and sound pictures are being pioneered in the 1860’s and 1870’s instead of the 1910’s and 1920’s. On the one hand, how would this technology have changed global culture in and of itself? On the other hand, how might the film industry have developed differently on an artistic and corporate level by virtue of cropping up a few decades beforehand?
     
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  2. Mr_Fanboy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    Also, given how undeveloped the American West was at this time, where would the actual center of such an early film industry likely be? The Northeastern United States? England? France? Germany? Or would it be more multipolar than in any world?
     
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  3. bbctol Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2018
    This is actually pretty challenging! All things considered, the development of photography (no pun intended) moved pretty quickly; we went from hour long exposures to early film within a few decades, and from the Lumière brothers' flickering footage to narrative movies with sound and color remarkably fast. People like Louis Daguerre and George Eastman kind of were Tesla-level geniuses; there was a lot of brainpower thrown at such an exciting technology. There's also a certain amount of time needed to develop the infrastructure of film theaters, as well as develop editing techniques and get the populace used to them.

    Film also depends on a lot of other technological developments, so it's hard to isolate its effects. What really allowed moving pictures, as opposed to still photographs, was the invention of flexible, clear, durable plastic (prior to that, photographs were generally taken on metal plates.) Nitrocellulose was the first artificial plastic! Technically invented in the 1850s, with stable celluloid developed by the 1870s, and plastic motion picture film was invented in the 1880s... even if film is created immediately after nitrocellulose, that only moves film development up 30 years, not quite enough to get a real Victorian Hollywood (a Edwardian Hollywood, at best). Though we can try to minimize butterflies, plastic development has to be accelerated, which of course has great impacts on middle class lifestyles and ripple effects on culture. A Hollywood Age is a Plastic Age.

    However, there was plenty of plastic research in the early 1800s. With a few very lucky and brilliant scientists, let's say we get early nitrocellulose in the mid-1820s, right as very early photography is invented. Maybe in this TL it's Daguerre who realizes the potential applications of the new materials to photography, and with some heavy investment, the first experimental projected footage exists in the 1840s. I do think that with a post-1800 POD, the center of early film is likely to be France no matter what, as in OTL; it was the source of most photographic experiments for a long time. The United States wasn't yet as much of a center of technological development, but this would be boosted into high gear by the Civil War (and much as in OTL the war was the source of a lot of innovation in military technology, it would also be one of the first conflicts in TTL to feature newsreels showing footage from the front to citizens). There's no reason to think Germany wouldn't be an early adopter of the technology, too, as in OTL.

    So I think it would be a more multipolar film industry than ours, but OTL the film industry was also quite multipolar until World War I disrupted European cultural output in general. The dominance of Hollywood specifically has more to do with the rise of the United States. In terms of cultural impacts, early films would probably be similar to variety theatre and vaudeville in OTL, and I'd think society would be more affected by early plastics. But newsreels really would change the way common people perceive war: maybe there'd be more backlash against foreign wars and less inclination to revanchism with more footage of what war was really like (as kind of happened in OTL with photography) or maybe the idea of a propaganda industry would also get started decades early, and we'd see a Franco-Prussian war or World War I analogue with even more fanaticism on both sides, comparable to WWII.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019 at 12:27 PM
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