The Lumiere Brothers



The innovative Lumiere brothers in France, Louis and Auguste (often called "the founding fathers of modern film"), who worked in a Lyons factory that manufactured photographic equipment and supplies, were inspired by Edison's work. They created their own combo movie camera and projector - a more portable, hand-held and lightweight device that could be cranked by hand and could project movie images to several spectators. It was dubbed the Cinematographe and patented in February, 1895. The multi-purpose device (combining camera, printer and projecting capabilities in the same housing) was more profitable because more than a single spectator could watch the film on a large screen. They used a film width of 35mm, and a speed of 16 frames per second - an industry norm until the talkies. By the advent of sound film in the late 1920s, 24 fps became the standard.

The first public test and demonstration of the Lumieres' camera-projector system (the projection of a motion picture) was made in March of 1895. They caused a sensation with the film Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory (La Sortie des Ouviers de L'Usine Lumiere a Lyon), although it only consisted of everyday outdoor images - such as factory workers leaving the Lumiere factory gate for home or for a lunch break.

As generally acknowledged, cinema (a word derived from Cinematographe) was born on December 28, 1895, in Paris, France. The Lumieres presented the first commercial exhibition of a projected motion picture to a paying public in the world's first movie theatre - in the Salon Indien, at the Grand Cafe on Paris' Boulevard des Capucines. The 20-minute program of ten short films (with the mundane quality of home movies), with twenty showings a day. These factual shorts (or mini-documentaries), termed actualities, included the famous first comedy of a gardener with a watering hose (aka The Sprinkler Sprinkled, Waterer and Watered, or L'Arrouseur Arrose), the factory worker short (see above), a sequence of a horse-drawn carriage galloping toward the camera, and the arrival of a train at a station (Arrivee d'un train en gare a La Ciotat).

Other Developments in Projecting Machines:
Two brothers in Berlin, Germany - inventors Emil and Max Skladanowsky - created their own film device for projecting films in November, 1895. Also in 1895, American inventor Major Woodville Latham developed an unpopular projector called an Eidoloscope (or Panoptikon projector). What was most innovative was its Latham Loop, the addition of a slack-forming loop to the film path to restrain the inertia of the take-up reel, and prevent the tearing of sprocket holes. It also allowed for the use of films longer than three minutes. (The loop is still used in virtually all film cameras and projectors to this day.) And American inventors Thomas Armat and Charles Francis Jenkins developed the Phantascope in 1895, an improved device (with intermittent-motion mechanisms) for projecting films on a screen. In September, 1895, they debuted their projection device at the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition and patented it.

In London in January of 1896, Birt Acres and Robert W. Paul also developed a machine to project films. Paul became the first manufacturer of projectors and a pioneering film producer in Britain. In 1896, Edison's Company (because it was unable to produce a workable projector on its own) purchased an improved version of Armat's movie projection machine (the Phantascope), and renamed it the Vitascope. On April 23, 1896 in New York City at Koster and Bial's Music Hall, the date of the first Vitascope projection for a paying American audience, customers watched the Edison Company's Vitascope project a ballet sequence in an amusement arcade during a vaudeville act.

The First Permanent Movie Theatres:
Films were increasingly being shown as part of vaudeville shows, variety shows, and at fairgrounds or carnivals. Audiences would soon need larger theaters to watch screens with projected images from Vitascopes after the turn of the century. The earliest 'movie theatres' were converted churches or halls, showing one-reelers (a 10-12 minute reel of film - the projector's reel capacity at the time). The primitive films were usually more actualities and comedies.

In 1897, the first real cinema building was built in Paris, solely for the purpose of showing films. The same did not occur until 1902 in downtown Los Angeles where Thomas L. Talley's storefront, 200-seat Electric Theater became the first permanent US theater to exclusively exhibit movies - it charged patrons a dime, up from a nickel at the nickelodeons. By 1898, the Lumiere's company had produced a short film catalog with over 1,000 titles.

Georges Melies: French Cinematic Magician
Aside from technological achievements, another Frenchman who was a member of the Lumiere's viewing audience, Georges Melies, expanded development of film cinema with his own imaginative fantasy films. When the Lumiere brothers wouldn't sell him a Cinematographe, he developed his own camera (a version of the Kinetograph), and then set up Europe's first film studio in 1897. He created about 500 films (one-reelers usually) over the next 15 years (few of which survived), and screened his own productions in his theatre. In late 1911, he contracted with French film company Pathe to finance and distribute his films, and then went out of business by 1913.

An illusionist and stage magician, and a wizard at special effects, Melies exploited the new medium with a pioneering, 14-minute science fiction work, Le Voyage Dans la Lune - A Trip to the Moon (1902). It was his most popular and best-known work, with about 30 scenes called tableaux. He incorporated surrealistic special effects, including the memorable image of a rocketship landing and gouging out the eye of the 'man in the moon.' Melies also introduced the idea of narrative storylines, plots, character development, illusion, and fantasy into film, including trick photography (early special effects), hand-tinting, dissolves, wipes, 'magical' super-impositions and double exposures, the use of mirrors, trick sets, stop motion, slow-motion and fade-outs/fade-ins. Although his use of the camera was innovative, the camera remained stationary and recorded the staged production from one position only.