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Home /Science / Film Reel Fun Facts

Film Reel Fun Facts

By Dillon Wallace

There’s no doubt that the film industry has had an illustrious history.

From today’s digital blockbusters to yesteryear’s silent movies, film has been a cultural staple for more than a century and counting.

But where did it all begin? What are some film reel fun facts that you may not know about the industry’s earliest moving pictures?


A moving picture is born in 1888

By the 19th century – an era that drug in the wild west and Civil War – people were looking for a new form of entertainment, something a little more … dignified. Technology was ramping up heading into the 20th century and in 1888, Louis LePrince became the first person to produce a moving picture, the Roundhay Garden Scene. Shot on his single-lens camera, the two-second long clip consisted of a few of his family members and friends dancing/walking in circles outside an estate. The rest is history.


Live music at the cinema

Back when silent films were putting butts in seats, live bands and orchestras would sometimes accompany movies to help provide sound and add that extra layer of audio entertainment that was missing.


How long is a film reel, you ask?

How long do you think the average length of a reel of film is? 300 ft.? 500 ft.? 750ft.? Try a whopping 1000 ft.! If you stop and think about it, that’s nearly a quarter of a mile!


Okay, so if one film reel is 1000 ft., then how long is the playback? Would you believe that it’s only around 11 minutes? Because it is. Now, imagine how many rolls of film it took back in the day just to play one full-length feature film … about 9 reels for an hour and a half movie. Oh, and each reel weighed about 5 lbs. So playing one movie was basically the equivalent of weightlifting for the projectionist.


Double the film. Double the ease.

Judging by the length of film and the poundage, it wasn’t exactly economical to ship mass amounts to theaters across the country. So, two-reelers were invented to help reduce the costs of the standard, single 1000 ft. reel. These two-reelers doubled the amount of film per reel to save on shipping costs and help cut the number of transitions in the middle of movies by half (and the sheer number of human errors that came with transitioning).


Formatting the MMs of film

Film is gauged in a millimeter format that refers to the width of the film. You may be most familiar with 8 mm film as the standard format, but did you know there are actually four commonly used gauges? Super 8/8 mm is primarily used for amateur film recordings, 16 mm is common in low budget films and television, 35 mm is widely used as a popular format for motion pictures and 65 mm is best known for widescreen presentations like IMAX.


Still reeling today

Although film has become nearly obsolete to the general consumer, it’s still very much alive today. In fact, it’s in somewhat of a comeback with several of today’s most decorated directors, including Quentin Tarentino and Chistopher Nolan, opting to shoot only on film rather than digital. Both directors have been so vocal about the importance of shooting on film (particularly 35 mm film) that they’ve made headlines. Tarantino has gone as far as saying digital is killing the movie industry.


The film to top all film running times

In 1963, the epic Cleopatra was released to critical praise. It made history taking home four Academy Awards and landed among the year’s highest-grossing films. But Cleopatra also enters the movie record books for being the longest Hollywood film of all time with a 4 hour and 8 minute total run time. Yeah, that’s intermission worthy for sure. That’s also a staggering 27 reels of film, weighing 135 lbs for one, single movie!


Digitize your film today

If you’re lucky enough to have any film reels laying around in storage, now’s the time to save them through digitization. And we can help you. No projector (who even has one anymore) or need to port around your heavy reels to take a peek back in time.

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