Jazz Singer 1927

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The Jazz Singer is the first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences, its release in 1927 heralded the commercial ascendance of the “talkies” and the decline of the silent film era.

As noted in Wikipedia:

In retrospect, the success of The Jazz Singer signaled the end of the silent motion picture era, this was not immediately apparent. Mordaunt Hall, for example, praised Warner Bros. for “astutely realiz[ing] that a film conception of The Jazz Singer was one of the few subjects that would lend itself to the use of the Vitaphone.” In historian Richard Koszarski’s words, “Silent films did not disappear overnight, nor did talking films immediately flood the theaters…. Nevertheless, 1927 remains the year that Warner Bros. moved to close the book on the history of silent pictures, even if their original goal had been somewhat more modest.”

The film had other effects that were more immediate. George Jessel, who was in his third season touring with the stage production of The Jazz Singer, later described what happened to his show—perhaps anticipating how sound would soon cement Hollywood’s dominance of the American entertainment industry: “A week or two after the Washington engagement the sound-and-picture version of The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson was sweeping the country, and I was swept out of business. I couldn’t compete with a picture theatre across the street showing the first great sound picture in the world…for fifty cents, while the price at my theatre was $3.00.”

Perhaps this lesson should be remembered when app developers lament the difference between the iOS App Store and Google Play. While the iOS App Store came into being earlier, Google Play is clearly ascendant and it’s model of free apps seems to be here to stay.

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