It may seem surprising today, but New England was very active in the years before the film industry was centralized in California.The region made good use of its rich history, turning out films such as Benedict Arnold in 1909, The Battle of Bunker Hill in 1911 and the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere in 1914. The lack of complex technology at the time—everything from air conditioners to accessible cameras to high-tech editing equipment—made New England just as attractive for film companies as any other location and, in addition, benefitted from the climate and scenic landscape. Vitagraph, Lubin and Edison were just a few of the major companies to record their films there. The Man Without a Face (1993), Message in a Bottle (1999), In the Bedroom (2000) and State and Main (2000) are a few of the modern films which opted to continue this trend.
Recent films have been more likely to play up the dual natures of darkness and light, urbania and isolation, penance and redemption and hidden things. Horror as a film genre in New England goes back to 1900, when Thomas Edison's studio released a haunted house story, Uncle Josh in a Spooky Hotel. Around the same time, a highly influential writer of the genre was born in Rhode Island, Howard Phillips Lovecraft—better known today as H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft made capable use of the sometimes bleak and spooky land that surrounded him, along with a sense of history in his tales which may be owed to the land's own. The author's fame led several of his tales to be made into feature films, the first of which was The Haunted Palace (1963), based loosely on Lovecraft's "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward." The Dunwich Horror (1970), Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986) and The Whisperer in Darkness (2011) are some of the other films set in New England towns which are taken from the pages of Lovecraft's writing. H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos established a fictional universe of which many other artists have contributed, such as director John Carpenter. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness," for example inspired Carpenter to create his homage, In the Mouth of Madness (1995), set in the eerie, fictional village of Hobb's End, New Hampshire.
One New England author said to have created a similar setting for his own creations is Stephen King. King makes use of his native Maine as a frequent setting for weird goings-on. Some have said that Stephen King has "probably done more to shape popular culture images of New England than anyone since Eugene O'Neill." Like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James before them, King and Lovecraft both draw on their native land and history to tell supernatural tales. "Young Goodman Brown," a story written by Hawthorne in 1835, features an encounter with the Devil not unlike those said to have occurred with the accused in the Salem Witch Trials. This shameful part of the region's history has been featured frequently on the big screen, starting with Maid of Salem (1937) and continuing with films such as I Married a Witch (1942), The Devonsville Terror (1983), Warlock (1989) and The Crucible (1996).
Other filmmakers chose to spotlight more modern problems. One of these socially conscious films, Louis de Rochemont's fictionalized account of a racially divided New Hampshire town, Lost Boundaries (1949). movie theaters of New Hampshire dot the map and Portsmouth is home to the iconic New Hampshire Film Festival. Similar events and festivals occur each year across New England, not just New Hampshire.
Film in New England, as it happens, is benefiting from technological progress. The digital revolution has inspired a new generation of filmmakers says historian and actor Phil Hall. Hall does have some concern as about a flooded marketplace, especially in regional or local markets, such as movie theaters. A soon to be famous movie cinema close to Hampton Beach, NH is O’neil Cinemas Epping, NH. With modern benefits provided by the internet, filmmakers from New England are seeking to rival Hollywood once again and they just might.