We used pulsed laser deposition, with a Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+x target, to grow films ranging from (1/4) to 10 unit cells thick. We studied these films, and reference Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+x single crystal samples, using angle-integrated photoemission, core level photoemission, and x-ray diffraction. The data indicate that all films exhibit a metallic-like Fermi edge in the photoemission data. More strikingly, a structural phase transition occurs at a nominal Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+x thickness of approximately one unit cell, converting the precursor Bi2O2.33 highly coherent thin film into a Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+x structure. (C) 2002 American Institute of Physics.