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Early film

Era: 1880s - 1890s - 1900s - 1910s - 1920s

Related: film - magic lantern - silent films - phantasmagoria

Titles: The Kiss (1896) - William Heise

People: Étienne-Jules Marey - Eadweard Muybridge - The Lumières - Georges Méliès - Edison -

Early film theory: Ricciotto Canudo - Vachel Lindsay - Hugo Münsterberg - Terry Ramsaye

It was in America that people were first induced to pay to watch -- in May 1895 in a store on Broadway. In Europe it was not until November 1895 in Berlin that a movie was shown in public.

The quality of the movies shown in New York and Berlin were extremely poor and used processes that had no lasting impact on movie technology. The "true" debut of the motion picture is therefore usually dated to December 28, 1895 in Paris, where at the Grand Cafe in Boulevard des Capucines the Lumière brothers had their first paying audience.

Gaumont-Palace (1910, photo 1911) - Paris

The first important purpose-built cinema was the Gaumont Film Company's Gaumont-Palace in Paris, which opened in 1910 and could seat 5,000 people.

Muybridge's Complete Human and Animal Locomotion: New Volume 1 - Eadweard Muybridge [Amazon.com]

L’Arrivée d'un train à la Ciotat (1895) - Louis Lumière
image sourced here.

The Kiss (1896) - William Heise

Precursors of film

Film as an art form grew out of a long tradition of literature, storytelling, narrative drama, art, mythology, puppetry, shadow play, cave paintings and perhaps even dreams. In addition, the technology of film, emerged from developments and achievements much further back in human history. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precursors_of_film [Dec 2005]

Documentary film [...]

The earliest "moving pictures" were by definition documentary. They were single shots, moments captured on film, whether of a train entering a station, a boat docking, or a factory of people getting off work. Early film (pre-1900) was dominated by the novelty of showing an event.

These short films were called "actualities." Very little storytelling took place before the turn of the century, due mostly to technological limitations: cameras could hold only very small amounts of film; many of the first films are a minute or less in length. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Documentary_film, Apr 2004

A fairground attraction or a magician's prop

Considering the length of its prehistory and the comparative spans required by the novel and the other arts, the speed with which the cinema developed its complex code of instantly recognizable narrative symbols and its own grammar and poetics is all the more remarkable. Yet few were willing to concede that film, with its roots in pulp fiction, comic strips, popular photography and melodrama, was an art, dismissing it as a fairground attraction or a magician's prop. Ironically, it was a French illusionist, George Méliès (1861-1938), considered by many “the father of the narrative film,” who was to become the screen's first true artist. --http://course1.winona.edu/pjohnson/h140/early%20film.htm [Oct 2004]

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