A Short-Cuts History of New York and Film

Photo: From left: Jack Manning/New York Times Co./Getty Images; Globe Photos; Michael Abramson/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

New York is captured on film for the first time in William Heise’s Herald Square. Two years later, a young German-Jewish immigrant named William Morris goes into business as a vaudeville agent.

Vitagraph Studios sets up shop in Brooklyn.

Hollywood makes its first feature, Cecil B. DeMille’s The Squaw Man.

Production in New York becomes virtually obsolete, after the success of “talkie” The Jazz Singer. The city is too loud for sound-film production—for the next twenty years, studio films set here are shot almost exclusively on Hollywood back lots.

Production returns with The Naked City.

Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg make On the Waterfront here, calling it an “Eastern.” And a young photographer from the Bronx named Stanley Kubrick makes his first feature film, Fear and Desire.

Sidney Lumet’s first movie: 12 Angry Men.

With the collapse of the studio system, Hollywood starts to go into decline. And the art-house era begins. The New York Film Festival debuts, in 1962. Warhol releases Empire, in 1964. The School of the Arts at NYU is founded, in 1965. Among its first students: Martin Scorsese.

Woody Allen’s first feature: What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, a redubbed Japanese crime thriller.

The X-rated Midnight Cowboy wins Best Picture Oscar. Film Forum opens to the public.

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather wins Best Picture. Mean Streets is a hit at the NYFF.

Taxi Driver.

Woody Allen’s Annie Hall beats out Star Wars for Best Picture at the Oscars.

The Weinsteins start Miramax Films.

Perhaps symbolizing the fact that New York’s golden age has come to an end, Scorsese’s Raging Bull loses out to Robert Redford’s Ordinary People in an Oscar telecast that was postponed after John Hinckley Jr.’s Taxi Driver–inspired attempt to kill Ronald Reagan.

Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise. Over the next decade, as indies reshape the city, New Yorkers (Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dawn Steel) take over Hollywood.

Spike Lee’s first feature: She’s Gotta Have It.

Do the Right Thing.

James Schamus and Ted Hope form the production company Good Machine. Along with Killer Films and the Shooting Gallery, they will help make New York the place for indie producers and directors.

Disney acquires Miramax. In 1997, The English Patient will dominate the Oscars—the mainstreaming of indie film is complete.

September 11 prompts many to wonder if production will recover; the NYFF premieres The Royal Tenenbaums.

Woody Allen makes his first and only appearance at the Oscars, to introduce a clip celebrating New York filmmaking. The Tribeca Film Festival starts. Universal acquires Good Machine, refashioning it into Focus Features.

Eisner steps down as CEO of Disney—only to be replaced by another New Yorker, Robert Iger; Bronx-born Brad Grey becomes CEO of Paramount. The IFC Center opens.

New York hits a record high for film and TV production.

Steiner Studios in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard announces plans to double its size. And Scorsese finally wins his Oscar—by making a film in Boston. Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, and the Coen brothers dominate the NYFF.

A Short-Cuts History of New York and Film