Today, 120 years after the first public film screenings, digitisation has brought in its wake fundamental change for the production, screening and reception of motion pictures. In the early 20th century, the first cinemas appeared, some itinerant, some in shops. These were followed by large movie palaces. In the 1920s, the filmmaker and cinema operator Luise Veltée Kolm founded the VITA-Studios (WIEN-Film) on Rosenhügel with her two husbands Jakob Fleck and Anton Kolm; the cinema pioneer Count Alexander Kolowrat established Sascha-Film and the Sascha Atelier in Sievering. These two studios paved the way for a successful Austrian silent-movie industry. Examples of outstanding studio films produced there are, Sodom und Gomorrha (1922) and Die Sklavenkönigin (1924), both directed by Michael Kertesz (later known as Michael Curtiz).
Vienna's film scene has always been concentrated in the seventh district. The area around Neubaugasse was and still is Vienna’s film neighbourhood. Some filmmakers emigrated from Vienna to Berlin or Hollywood as early as the 1920s or '30s, such as Fritz Lang (1933). Many others of Jewish descent were persecuted, driven from the country and robbed of their possessions beginning in 1938 (among them, Otto Preminger, Josef von Sternberg, Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann). The advent of sound film initiated the development of the popular genre of “Viennese music film”. Between 1938 and 1945, the Wien Film production company was used by the Film Chamber of the Reich as a propaganda instrument serving the Nazi entertainment industry. After the war, post-Fascist film culture in Austria was dominated by mass produced revues, Heimatfilm (sentimental films in a traditional, often alpine Austrian setting) and movies set in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. This mass fare was set off by a small but strong segment of avant-garde cineastes. From the 1960s, the Austrian film industry and film culture lay more or less dormant. In the 1970s, the ORF (the Austrian public service broadcasting provider) became the most important film producer of the country and produced the first films featuring a generation of directors who were to make the Austrian film and video scene known again in the 1980s: Michael Haneke, VALIE EXPORT, Peter Patzak, Franz Novotny and many others. In 1981, the Austrian Film Funding Act finally provided a framework for new subsidy structures, particularly for art films in Austria. (Amended in 2005) The nomination of Barbara Albert’s film Nordrand for the Venice Film Festival in 1999 heralded an international trend in Austrian films specialising in dramas and documentaries with a socio-political message. In the last twenty years, film grants became more substantial and made possible the start up of many small, independent production companies. These funds encourage creativity and Austrian films continue to have an international presence, which does not, however, necessarily add up to box office success. Films that draw a large audience in Austria are usually comedies, often starring popular stand-up comedians, such as Hinterholz 8 (1998) directed by Harald Sicheritz, featuring Roland Düringer, or Das ewige Leben (2015) directed by Wolfgang Murnberger, starring Josef Hader.
Starting in the 1960s, the Austrian tradition of Actionist and Concept Árt also included an intense exploration of video, a new technology at the time. The human body served as the point of focus for the new media constellation. The notions of space, image and material were constantly redefined, particularly by feminist artists such as VALIE EXPORT and Friederike Petzold. “Audiovisual messages” was the subject of the tri-country biennial Trigon in Graz in 1973. The first Ars Electonica Festival, organised in 1979 in Linz, firmly established the new alliance between technology, video art and theory. In 1979, activists in Linz founded the cultural association Stadtwerkstatt which conducted artistic experiments with the medium of television and explored alternative options for production and distribution. In 1978, an artists’ collective set up Medienwerkstatt Wien as a non-commercial video studio. In the 1980s, this institution was the central hub of independent, artistic media production in Austria. As of autumn 2005, the OKTO television channel - an independent channel subsidised mainly by the City of Vienna – has been engaging in important film mediation and education activities. As of 2011, ORF III television channel, broadcasts theatrical performances and also acts as a potential mediator and agent of Austrian filmmaking in addition to ORFII.