There is much dispute as to the identity of its inventor. Some argue[who?] that the device was first invented and patented as "Cinématographe Léon Bouly" by French inventor Léon Bouly on February 12, 1892. Leon Bouly coined the term “cinematograph”, which translates in Greek to “writing in movement”. It is said that, due to a lack of fee, Bouly was not able to pay the rent for his patent the following year, and Auguste and Louis Lumière's engineers bought the license.
Popular thought, however, dictates that Louis Lumière was the first to conceptualise the idea, and both Lumière brothers shared the patent. They made their first film, Sortie de l'usine Lumière de Lyon, in 1894. The film was publicly screened at L'Eden, the World's first and oldest cinéma, located in La Ciotat in southeastern France, on September 28, 1895. The first commercial, public screening of cinematographic films happened in Paris on 28 December 1895 and was organised by the Lumière brothers. The cinematograph was also exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. At the Exhibition, films made by the Lumière Brothers were projected unto a large screen measuring 16 by 21 meters (approximately 52.5 x 69 feet).
Several versions of cinématographes were developed, including ones by Robert Royou Beard, Cecil Wray, Georges Demenÿ, Alfred Wrench, and that of the Lumière brothers.
The cinematograph is sometimes associated with the “birth” of cinema or the dawn of a new age of film that replaced the pre-cinema era.
Louis Lumière worked with his brother Auguste to create a motion picture camera superior to Edison’s kinetoscope. The Lumières endeavored to correct the flaws they perceived in the kinetoscope to create a machine capable of both sharper images and better illumination. The Cinématographe weighed only 16 lbs. which allowed for ease of transportation and placement. As well, the cinematograph was manually operated by a hand-crank, opposed to Edison’s electrically powered camera which could not be transported in any way. Furthermore, while Edison’s kinetoscope could only be viewed by one person at a time through an eye piece, peepshow style, the cinematograph could be projected onto a screen to be viewed by a large audience of people simultaneously.
The cinematograph produced a sharper projected image than had previously been seen before due to its design, which a kind of fork held the film reel in place through the perforations made on the sides of the film strip . In 1897, the Lumières further added to their invention with a device intended to work as a condenser and to prevent overheating of the film after extended use. A glass flask of water was placed in the projector, which also acted as a block system, as it would disrupt the concentration of light unto the film if the glass were to break.
The cinematograph became a popular attraction and pastime for people all over the world. The Lumière Brothers took their machine as far and wide as China and India. Movies shown through its projector were enjoyed by people of all classes and social standings. The cinematograph was used to show films in nickelodeons, where even the poorest classes could obtain the entry fee. It was exhibited at fairs and used as entertainment acts in vaudeville houses in both Europe and the United States. While vaudeville is typically associated with the middle class of people, the machine also found its way into more sophisticated venues, where it appealed to the artistic tastes of high society.
The Lumières held their first private screening of projected motion pictures in 1895. Their first public screening of films at which admission was charged was held on December 28, 1895, at Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris. This history-making presentation featured ten short films, including their first film, Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory). Each film is 17 meters long, which, when hand cranked through a projector, runs approximately 50 seconds.
- List of film formats
- Abel, Richard. Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. 1st ed. London: Routledge, 2004.
- Louis Lumière, The Lumière Cinematograph. In:Fielding, Raymond (1979). A technological history of motion pictures and television: an anthology from the pages of the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. University of California Press. pp. 49–51. ISBN 0-520-03981-5.
- Cinematograph, Louis Lumière. “1936 the Lumière Cinematograph.” SMPTE Journal 105, no. 10 (October 1, 1996): 608–611.
- "Machines". Who's Who of Victorian Cinema. British Film Institute.
- Gomery, Professor Douglas, and Clara Pafort-Overduin. Movie History: A Survey. Taylor & Francis, 2011.