From the perspective of economics, the cinema is the movies, commodities that are produced, circulated, and watched within the context of consumer culture. To focus on the German movie industry as an economic institution demands, then, not in the first instance a discussion of those canonical German films that have enriched the world cinema or of innovative shooting styles that emerged in Germany; rather, we are concerned with the products of a national industry within the context of international competition and exchange. Market factors such as technological invention and patents, export-import relations, coproduction contracts, censorship, and quotas establish the context in which questions about national reputation and national interests can be formulated. In Germany the emergence of the movie industry assumed a special significance because it was perceived there as the paradigm of modem experience, playing an essential role in the mediation of culture during the society's growth as a major political and economic force. Both domestic production (a diverse spectrum ranging from cheap potboilers to art films) and foreign imports (prior to World War I from Scandinavia and France, in the 1920s from the United States and the Soviet Union) became, for example, the catalysts for wide-ranging discussions about the cinema's power to subvert traditional oppositions between high and low culture, art and commerce, urbanity and domesticity.
As in other countries, the birth of the German cinema emerged from sophisticated technological know-how in the field of photography and was mainly associated with pioneering entrepreneurs, engineers, and technicians such as Ottomar Anschütz, the brothers Max and Emil Skladanowsky, Oskar Messter, Guido Seeber, and Karl Geyer. In other words the rapid growth of