Oskar Messter

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Oskar Messter
Bundesarchiv N 1275 Bild-361-01, Oskar Messter.jpg
Oskar Messter, 1920
Born (1866-11-21)21 November 1866
Died 6 December 1943(1943-12-06) (aged 77)
Akt-Skulpturen (1903)

Oskar Messter (21 November 1866 – 6 December 1943) was a German inventor and film tycoon in the early years of cinema. His firm Messter Film was one of the dominant German producers before the rise of UFA, into which it was ultimately merged.


He was born in Berlin, where his father had founded a company selling and manufacturing optical equipment in 1859. Messter built and sold his first movie projector in 1896, one of the first projectors using a Geneva drive to achieve the intermittent motion of the film. He is often credited with inventing this application of the Geneva drive, but both Max Gliewe (also in Berlin) and Robert W. Paul in London independently built projectors using this mechanism for film transport at about the same time. Gliewe later joined Messter's company, and together they produced highly successful projectors — already in his first year, Messter sold 64 units.

Messter also immediately entered the film production business and built the first film studio in Germany. In 1897, he already offered 84 films showing a wide variety of scenes. Four years later, he restructured his company into separate firms for film production, distribution, and the manufacturing of optical equipment, including film projectors. He did the first projection of sound film in Germany at the Apollo theatre in Berlin in 1903 with a system called "Biophon" in which a gramophone was coupled to the projector. From 1909 to 1917, his film company produced 350 films. In 1918, he sold his movie companies to the newly founded UFA.

He donated his collection of historical film equipment to the German Museum in 1932. Messter died in 1943 in Tegernsee.

Selected filmography[edit]

External links[edit]


  • Loiperdinger, M. (Ed.): Oskar Messter: Filmpionier der Kaiserzeit and Oskar Messter, Erfinder und Geschäftsmann, KINtop Schriften 2 & 3, Stroemfeld/Roter Stern; Basel, 1994. In German.
  • Messter, O.: Mein Weg mit dem Film, Berlin, 1936. Also in German.