Film: Starting on March 27, 1896 the Lumière brothers began shooting films in Vienna, at first in the French embassy and then publicly in Vienna's first district at Kaerntner Strasse 45. The short Documentary Films of only a few minutes´ duration not only attracted attention from a paying public (including Emperor Franz Josef, who attended a screening on April 4, 1896), but also encouraged Austrian film lovers to produce their own films as a new art form. At first foreign films were shown in touring (road) cinemas (including J. Agostini, J. Blaeser, L. and A. Geni, K. Lifka) and several permanent cinemas (in 1903 there were three in Vienna); 1908 is considered the year when Austrian filmmaking was born when the photographer A. Kolm is said to have produced the film "Von Stufe zu Stufe" ("Step by Step") with the actor H. Hanus; the film has not been preserved. The "Erste Oesterreichische Kinofilm-Industrie" studios (later "Wiener Kunstfilm-Industrie Ges.m.b.H.") founded by Kolm in 1910 produced the first Austrian Documentary Film, the first Austrian newsreels as well as feature films (such as "Die Ahnfrau", 1910; "Der Mueller und sein Kind", 1911). Stars of the silent screen were C. Cartellieri, L. Haid, A. Milety and M. Sonja. The best-known film pioneer was the Bohemian nobleman A. Kolowrat-Krakowsky, who produced the first full-length feature film "Der Millionenonkel" with A. Girardi (directed by H. Marischka) with his company "Sascha-Film" in Vienna in 1913. In 1916 he had the first large studio built in Vienna's 19th district, Sievering. During this time actors such as F. Freisler, K. Hartl, W. Reisch and G. Ucicky were immortalised on film. Inspired by C. B. de Mille´s work in the USA, Kolowrat began several large-scale projects such as "Sodom und Gomorrha" (1922) and "Die Sklavenkoenigin" (1924), both directed by M. Kertesz in the 1920s. The Sascha-Film studios also endeavoured to find a market for its films in the USA and in the lands of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (Bosna in Belgrade, Radius in Budapest, Petef in Warsaw, Slavia in Prague, Doria in Bucharest). When Sascha-Film became the agent of Paramount in Austria in 1918, the first professional associations (directors, studio managers, actors) were formed.
In 1919 the Vita-Film-AG was founded, in the same year the construction of the Rosenhuegel-Studios began, in 1922 new studios were built (Listo F. Studio, Schoenbrunner Studio, Astoria, Dreamland Studio). In 1923 film sales declined due to inflation, the Vita-Film-AG was forced to close its doors. The flooding of the market with foreign films (in 1925 there were 1,200) was met with the introduction of quotas (in 1926). In 1925 the film industry fell into a serious crisis which worsened with the introduction of sound films. In June 1928 the first short sound films of a documentary nature were shown in Vienna's Urania theatre, one year later on August 23 the first Austrian sound film production ("G´schichten aus der Steiermark" by H. O. Loewenstein) was premiered in Graz. In order to produce sound films Sascha film studio joined the Tobis studio to form Sascha-Tobis-Film in 1930. With his film "Leise flehen meine Lieder" in 1933 W. Forst introduced a new film style, the Viennese musical film, which rose to popularity thanks to the introduction of sound films ("Maskerade", 1934; "Bel Ami", 1939; "Operette", 1940, etc.). In 1934 the quota system was newly regulated, which made the screening of the Tobis-Sascha weekly newsreel and Austrian cultural films obligatory. Domestic film production came to an end with the Anschluss in March 1938.
From the heyday of silent films until well into the 1960s (and in some case after that) Austrian film-makers relied on spectacular settings in which the architects A. Berger, J. v. Borsody, F. Jueptner-Jonstorff, H. Ledersteger and W. Schlichting as well as costume designers such as F. Adlmueller, L. Bei, C. Flemming, Gerdago, L. Hofer and E. Kniepert depicted past eras by mixing historical exactness and imaginative creativity while adding accents from contemporary fashion and trends.
Due to the political changes in Germany and Austria in the 1930s, and to a lesser extent for career reasons, many Austrian film-makers, such as directors P. Czinner, F. Lang, O. Preminger, J. v. Sternberg, E. v. Stroheim, W. Reisch, B. Wilder and F. Zinnemann, actors such as L. Askin, O. Homolka, P. Lorre, C. Mayer, L. Rainer and A. Wohlbrueck and the cartoonist M. Fleischer as well as musicians such as E. W. Korngold, M. Steiner and R. Stolz left the country. For various reasons many emigres never returned to Austria.
The Austrian studios were consolidated to form Wien-Film, which became one of the most productive film companies in the Third Reich. Austrian themes dominated, the plots dealt mostly with past eras ("Unsterblicher Walzer", 1939; "Bruederlein fein"; "Wen die Goetter lieben"; "Wiener Blut", 1942). When Austria was occupied by the Allied forces in 1945, the studios were confiscated. 1946 marked a new beginning for the Austrian film industry. Films produced until the end of World War II had featured stars such as H. Moser, A. and P. Hoerbiger, P. Wessely and H. Holt; they dealt with personal relationships and presented endearing eccentrics in a comical way from the perspective of the bourgeoisie (often set in the past). After World War II this style continued. In addition to a significant number of Heimatfilme, which dealt with the woods and mountain genre ("Echo der Berge - Der Foerster vom Silberwald", 1954) and historical themes in an operetta-like style (E. Marischka´s "Sissi Trilogy", 1955-1957 with R. Schneider and other films about the Austro-Hungarian monarchy); the films also dealt with the contemporary political situation, including coming to terms with Austria's recent past ("Der Engel mit der Posaune", 1948, directed by K. Hartl; "Der letzte Akt", 1955, directed by G. W. Pabst) and addressing various new social problems ("Wienerinnen", 1952; "Flucht ins Schilf", 1953, both directed by K. Steinwendner; "Moos auf den Steinen", 1968, directed by G. Lhotsky).
A wealth of film awards was created, including the "Sascha-Trophy" for feature films and the cultural film award for documentary films; other awards included honours for advertisements and the "Goldene Feder" ("Golden Feather") - beginning in 1954, this award was bestowed by critics on the director of the "Film of the Year". Interest groups and professional associations were reorganised and the educational film was created. There were attempts in Austria to resolve the film crisis by founding the Stadthallen-Produktionsgesellschaft; the endeavour began in 1961, ended in 1966 and resulted in diverse productions including "Unsere tollen Tanten" (1961), "Der letzte Ritt nach Santa Cruz" (1964) and "Der Kongress amuesiert sich" (1966).
After 1968 film-making in Austria began to develop in many different directions. In addition to F. Antel's commercial and popular entertainment films (for instance his "Wirtinnen" series in the 1960s and 1970s) a number of Austrian directors managed to establish themselves with films such as "Kassbach", 1979, directed by P. Patzak; "Der 7. Kontinent", 1979, directed by M. Haneke; "Der Schueler Gerber", 1981, directed by W. Glueck; "Muellers Buero", 1986, directed by N. List; "Weiningers Nacht", 1990, directed by P. Manker; "Indien", 1993, directed by P. Harather; "Exit II", 1995, directed by F. Novotny. However, a distinctive "Austrian" film style has yet to emerge. In the last few years the Austrian actors K. M. Brandauer and A. Schwarzenegger have attained international celebrity.
Literature#W. Fritz, Kino in Oesterreich. Der Stummfilm 1896-1930, 1981; idem, Kino in Oesterreich 1945-1983, 1984; idem, Kino in Oesterreich. Der Tonfilm 1896-1945, 1991.