Yeşilçam is named after Yeşilçam Street in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul where many actors, directors, crew members and studios were based.
Yeşilçam experienced its heyday from the 1950s to the 1970s, when it produced 250 to 350 films annually. After the 1970s, Yeşilçam suffered due to the spread of television in Turkey. However, Yeşilçam has seen a revival since 2002, having produced critically acclaimed movies such as Uzak (Grand Prix (Cannes Film Festival), 2003), Babam ve Oğlum and Propaganda.
Between 1950 and 1966 more than fifty movie directors practiced film arts in Turkey. Ömer Lütfi Akad strongly influenced the period, but Osman Fahir Seden, Atıf Yılmaz, and Memduh Ün made the most films. The film Susuz Yaz (Dry Summer), made by Metin Erksan, won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1964.
The number of cinemagoers and the number of films made record a constant increase, especially after 1958. In the 1960s the programs of the theater departments in the Language, History and Geography faculties of Ankara University and Istanbul University included cinema courses, as did the Press and Publications High School of Ankara University. A cinema branch was also established in the Art History Department of the State Fine Arts Academy.
The Union of Turkish Film Producers and the State Film Archives both date from the 1960s. The State Film Archives became the Turkish Film Archives in 1969. During the same period, the Cinema-TV Institute was founded and annexed to the State Academy of Fine Arts. The Turkish State Archives also became part of this organization. In 1962, the Cinema-TV Institute became a department of Mimar Sinan University. Well-known directors of the 1960–1970 period include Metin Erksan, Atıf Yılmaz, Memduh Ün, Halit Refiğ, Duygu Sağıroğlu, Remzi Aydın Jöntürk and Nevzat Pesen. In 1970, the numbers of cinemas and cinemagoers rose spectacularly. In 2,424 cinemas, films were viewed by a record number of 247 million viewers.
In 1970, approximately 220 films were made and this figure reached 300 in 1972. Turkish cinema gave birth to its legendary stars at this period, notable examples being Kemal Sunal, Kadir İnanır, Türkan Şoray and Şener Şen. After this period however, the cinema began to lose its audiences, due to nationwide TV broadcasts. After 1970, a new and young generation of directors emerged, but they had to cope with an increased demand for video films after 1980.