Arnheim argues in these texts and throughout his theoretical writings that for film to be an esteemed and established art, which it should be, it must not merely copy objective reality mechanically but rather the director must mold the medium, and the various media contained within it (image and sound in particular), according to the same breed of personal artistic vision and creativity that the older and established arts, like painting, demand.
Like Clement Greenburg twenty years later, Arnheim holds that the separate media involved in film must remain pure and distinct in order for a given film to possess aesthetic qualities. If they are to mix, the director must coordinate these media in conjunction with one another so that instead of copying the way sound and image interact in the real world, they have an artistic rapport with one another that the director has chosen and designed according to his artistic conception. Arnheim states, “The enrichment and unity that may result in art from the cooperation of several media are not identical with the fusion of all sorts of sense perception that is typical for our way of experiencing the ‘real' world” (203). In “A New Laocoon” Arnheim compares the relationship between image, music, and movement on the screen and on the stage, and states that the dialogue on the stage is by far the dominant form of expression, whereas on film the image and succession and editing of images of more central importance. Although he is much more cautious about condemning the talking picture all together in this essay (1938) than in his earlier ones (1933), he continues to think that those factors which make viewing film more like everyday experience: dialogue, color, widescreen, 3-D, etc, replace or mar the aesthetic capabilities of film (montage, shades of black and white, etc.) that emerge when the various media layers of film are distilled. He states, “Not only does speech limit the motion picture to an art of dramatic portraiture, it also interferes with the expression of the image” (228).
Arnheim profoundly disagrees with Panofsky  by refusing that cultural artifacts, like the striptease or military march, are art, for he is bent on preserving or developing the high-art capabilities of film. He likewise opposes Kracauer by pointedly and repeatedly stating that the point and purpose of the movies is not to represent reality, but to shape it according to the director's artistic vision. In film, he states, the artist must make creative choices, and then strain the objects of the real world (that the camera mechanically records) through his own subjective filter. These “creative choices” are the same as those in the other arts, and the further these creative choices stray from reality, the more artistic the film. In this way, the material of the real world can be transformed into art by the artists ‘formative tendency,' that is, his subjectivity and intimate ideas. Arnheim was writing at a time in which film had existed for almost half a century, and already had a history and extensive repertoire. The reason why his theory is of such utmost importance to the history of film and media theory is that it refuted film as a “mechanic” medium and validated it according to the same criteria as painting, drama, and the other ‘high' or established fine arts. In this way, the cinema becomes a member of the Academy, so to speak. Indeed, and un-coincidentally, the years during which Arnheim wrote witnessed the introduction of Cinema/Film studies into American universities as a topic of serious and worthy academic study, equal to art history, literature, and the rest.
 Arnheim, Erwin Panofsky and Siegfried Kracauer all wrote from the 1920s through the 1950s in Germany and then America. Despite all the changes in film since the time they wrote, their writings remain the backbone of film theory. All three disagreed enormously on the role of film among the other arts, and comparing Arnheim to the others is a good way of clarifying his idea of film as an established and venerable art.