1918 as a Pivotal Year of Mass Culture

Project management: Winfried Müller
Research: Wolfgang Flügel, Merve Lühr, Sophie Döring

Cinema, Film Industry, and Film Discourses in Dresden before and after 1918

The period from the invention of the cinematograph to the beginning of the First World War is generally known as the era of the fun fair or traveling cinema that contributed to the popularization of the movies. At the same time, already before the outbreak of war, a transition began that led to permanent cinema buildings in the big cities, and a tendency towards full-length feature movies. On one side, this development was interrupted by the war, on the other side, the war also contributed to the rise of the young medium: mobile field- and front cinemas were employed, films served as documentary of the war; through films, the civilian population at home was informed, but they were also influenced through propaganda films. At the same time, the production of feature films gained fresh impetus by the launching of UFA in December 1917. When the pivotal year 1918 began, the foundations were laid for the 1920s, when the developments of the prewar period were basically consolidated.

This is from where the research project starts: with the example of Dresden – at that time, with 548,000 inhabitants one of the five largest German cities – its approach focuses on historical topography and architecture of the cinema. A web site will chronologically visualize the urban agglomeration of movie theatres and also inform on the development of the repertoires. The analysis of metropolitan cinema culture will be complemented by aspects of economic and technical history. For around 1918, Dresden was a centre of the film industry in Germany and left a mark as a location of innovations. In addition, various trends came together in the city, being focused on tradition and life reform at the same time. Among other things, Dresden was the home of the  ’Dürerbund ’, one of the most influential mouthpieces against a perceived destruction of morals in the course of urbanization and the occurrence of mass culture. Its editor, Ferdinand Avenarius, was also the editor of the  ’Kunstwart ’. Exploring the contemporary discourses that originated from Dresden, it will be analyzed how far the  ’Kunstwartgesinnung ’, being a feature of the educated middle class, went along with the new medium film, and how far conservative members of the educated middle class reflected the transition from sensational cinema to cinematic art or even succumbed to the fascination of the movies.



Wappen des Freistaates Sachsen

A measure partly financed by public funding, based on the budget as determinded by the representatives of the Saxon State Parliament.