On January 9, 1894, Fred Ott sneezed. That rather ordinary event was made extraordinary because Thomas Edison captured the achoo! on film, or rather, kinetoscope. It was one of a series of short films he made in that time period, but this one has gone down in film history as the first film copyrighted in the United States.
I’m not sure there is any easy way of determining how many films have been copyrighted in the United States since then, but a search of imdb, the Internet Movie DataBase for movies released in the U.S. — just in 2012 — yielded 16,827 titles.
Think of all the creativity that went into the films that span the decades since Fred Ott’s sneeze. Admittedly, the films weren’t all of stellar quality, but just think of all the ideas and images that have been projected onto movie screens since those first kinetoscope flickerings. Think of the history that has been recorded, the drama that has been enacted, the laughter that has lightened lives. Think of all that has been added to the common experience, the common lexicon, through film. How much we would miss without this art form.
And it got its start in things as common as a sneeze.