Cinematic innovators attempted to cope with the fundamental synchronization problem in a variety of ways.

By the early 1930s, the talkies were a global phenomenon.

In the United States, they helped secure Hollywood's position as one of the world's most powerful cultural/commercial centers of influence (see Cinema of the United States).

In 1902, Léon Gaumont demonstrated his sound-on-disc Chronophone, involving an electrical connection he had recently patented, to the French Photographic Society. Norton's Cameraphone was the primary competitor to the Gaumont system (sources differ on whether the Cameraphone was disc- or cylinder-based); it ultimately failed for many of the same reasons that held back the Chronophone.

Despite high expectations, Gaumont's sound innovations had only limited commercial success—though improvements, they still did not satisfactorily address the three basic issues with sound film and were expensive as well. In 1913, Edison introduced a new cylinder-based synch-sound apparatus known, just like his 1895 system, as the Kinetophone; instead of films being shown to individual viewers in the Kinetoscope cabinet, they were now projected onto a screen.

Three major problems persisted, leading to motion pictures and sound recording largely taking separate paths for a generation.

The primary issue was synchronization: pictures and sound were recorded and played back by separate devices, which were difficult to start and maintain in tandem.

Reliable synchronization was difficult to achieve with the early sound-on-disc systems, and amplification and recording quality were also inadequate.

Innovations in sound-on-film led to the first commercial screening of short motion pictures using the technology, which took place in 1923.

These appear to be the first publicly exhibited films with projection of both image and recorded sound.

Phonorama and yet another sound-film system—Théâtroscope—were also presented at the Exposition.

In Europe (and, to a lesser degree, elsewhere), the new development was treated with suspicion by many filmmakers and critics, who worried that a focus on dialogue would subvert the unique aesthetic virtues of soundless cinema.