Movies (also known as films or motion pictures) are a type of visual communication which use moving pictures and sound to tell stories or inform (help people to learn about new ideas). People in every part of the world watch movies as a type of entertainment; a way to have fun. Fun for some people can mean laughing, while for others it can mean crying, or feeling afraid. Most movies are made so that they can be shown on big screens at cinemas or movie theatres. After movies are shown on cinema screens for a period of time (ranging from a few weeks to several months), movies 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. Later, movies are shown on television stations.
How movies work.
A movie camera or video camera takes pictures very quickly, usually at 24 pictures (frames) every second. When a movie projector, a computer, or a television shows the pictures at that rate, it looks like the images on the screen are 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 'Foley', the sounds of activities that are happening in the movie (such as doors opening or guns being fired).
How movies are made.
A screenwriter writes a script, which is the story of the movie with the words that the actors will say. Then 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 movie reels. Then the movie reels are sent to cinemas. An electric machine called a projector shines a very bright light through the movie, 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 true, 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.
Dramas are serious, and often about people falling in love or people who have 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. 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 ("Kramer versus Kramer"). Emotion (feelings) are a big part of the movie and the audience (people watching the film) may get upset and even cry.
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 films usually need very little effort to watch, since the plot is normally simple. For example terrorists take control of a skyscraper and ask for a lot of money in exchange for not killing the people who work there. One man somehow manages to save everyone and is the hero ("Die Hard"). Action movies do not usually make people cry, but if the action movie is also a drama, emotion will be involved. For example, four brothers go off to fight in the 2nd World War and 3 are soon killed. Someone decides that the 4th brother must be saved. He and the soldiers who rescue him end up fighting the enemy and the soldier who led his squad trying to save the 4th brother is killed and becomes a hero ("Saving Private Ryan").
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).
Comedies are funny movies about people being silly or doing unusual things that make the audience laugh.
Romantic Comedies (Rom-Coms) are usually love stories about 2 people from different worlds, who must overcome obstacles to be together. Rom-Coms are always light-hearted, but may include some emotion.
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'. Example: the "Lethal Weapon" series or "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid".
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, for example the "Alien" series.
Western movies tell stories about cowboys living in the western United States in the 1800s. They are usually really Action movies, but with historical costume. They may or may not involve Indians (Native Americans).
Horror films use fear to excite the audience. Music, lighting and sets (man-made places in film studios where the film is made) are all designed to add to the feeling.
Animated movies use childish images like talking pigs to tell a story. These films used to be drawn by hand, one frame at a time, but are now made on computers. The first major animated film, still highly respected by audiences and the movie industry is "Fantasia" by Walt Disney, made in 1946. This film has no dialogue (speaking) but uses Classical music. Simple stories are shown with action being in time to the music. For example pigs dressed as ballet dancers dance to the "Nutcracker Suite' by Tchaikovsky.
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.
Movie noir movies are 1940s-era detective movies about crime and violence.
The business of making movies.
Movies can 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 quite a small number of major studios, like MGM, Warner, Columbia or Paramount. 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 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 soundtracks) and CGI (computer generated imagery. 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 film.
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. Movies like this, which always cost the most to make, are called blockbusters. Special effects can add a huge amount to the cost of a film, especially the newest CGI effects, but people have come to expect them and every blockbuster film tries to out-do the last. Today in 2008, some films can cost up to $200 million to make. But when you stop to think that very successful films can make many times that amount in profit, it is easy to see 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 films have been so successful that the studios keep releasing more and more films with the same characters and basic plots, for example the James Bond films and Star Wars.
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. Films like this are very unusual and usualy become popular 'underground' (people tell each other about it), 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't 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 film. It is often the case that the new film, with its big budget and its stars will be less successful than the first, for example Blair Witch Project 2.
Famous actresses.
Note: the word actress is rarely used any more in the US film industry, male and female are all simply actors.

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