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History of Film

This brief history of film looks at the very early development of film itself as well as the film industry during the 40 years between 1873 and 1913. It is not meant to be a comprehensive study, but a quick look at some of the key developments that gave rise to the industry we know today.

Eadweard Muybridge, an English photographer working in the United States, uses a series of cameras placed along a race-track to capture the movement of a galloping horse. The project began as a way to find out if horses, when they run, ever get all four feet off the ground at the same time. The series of stills proves that they do.
Muybridge improves his method of capturing motion and begins to work on a projector.
Muybridge perfects a projector, of sorts, and calls it the Zoopraxiscope. It is a series of rotating glass disks with images, based on his photographs, painted on each panel. He begins a lecture tour in the United States and travels to Europe in 1892.
Thomas Eakins, one of Muybridge`s assistants creates a rudimentary single-motion camera.
In the United States, George Eastman begins to market film on a roll made of sensitized paper. In England, William Friese-Greene, a photographer, shows the results of his early experiments in film: the image of a girl moving her eyes.
German inventor, Ottomar Anshutz begins to produce his Electro-Tachyscope. It uses a series of still images attached to a large wheel. When viewed through a small whole, the wheel rotates producing the effect of motion. His machines are the hit of the “penny arcade” amusement industry around the world.
In the U.S., Eastman Kodak begins to make roll-film on celluloid. Thomas Edison receives a patent for perforated film. In England, William Friese-Greene receives a patent for a moving picture camera.
Edison applies for a patent on something he calls the Kinetoscope. It is a cabinet that can show a short film to one spectator at a time. It was designed by an assistant, William Dickson.
William Friese-Greene receives a patent for a rapid-sequence camera.
Edison begins to manufacture Kinetoscopes but says “I doubt there is any commercial future in it.” April 14, Andrew and George Holland of Ottawa open the world’s first kinetoscope parlour in New York City. In Britain a Kinetoscope goes on show in London, England. Robert Paul, a scientific instrument maker is asked to make a copy of the machine and discovers that Edison has not patented the invention in England. Paul`s improvements include finding a way to project the image onto a screen, as well as finding a way to stop each frame at the projector lens for just a moment so that the projected images appear less jerky.
Most films last about a minute. The American Mutoscope Company is founded to supply peep-show machines like Edison`s Kinetoscope. It soon begins film production, and is renamed the Biograph Company. In France, two brothers, Louis and Auguste Lumiere patent the Cinématograph, which is both a camera and a projector in one. In March they demonstrate their invention by making a film of factory workers leaving for home at the end of the day. On December 28 they present the first-ever public film show when they open Le Cinématograph in the basement of the Grand Café in Paris. They show 12 films in the 30 minute show.
Edison demonstrates a new projector. Designed by Thomas Armat, it is called the Vitascope. The first public show is in a New York music hall on April 23. In June the Lumiere show opens in New York. And May Irwin, from Whitby, Ontario, a true star of Broadway, becomes the first famous stage star to step in front of a motion picture camera, when along with John C. Rice she appears in a short movie, now usually titled The Kiss. The first public screening of a film in Canada takes place on 28 June, in Montreal. In July, the Holland brothers introduce Edison’s Vitascope to the Canadian public in Ottawa’s West End Park. Among the scenes shown is The Kiss. On August 31 the first screening in Toronto takes place at Robinson’s Musée on Yonge Street.
The first films are shot in Canada. The subject of all three films (for Lumière, Edison, and Biograph) is Niagara Falls.
The Massey-Harris Company of Toronto commissions the Edison Company to produce films to promote its products. This was the first use of film for advertising purposes. In December, John Schuberg presents films in Vancouver for the first time.
Cameramen for Biograph film a contingent of Canadian volunteers boarding a steamship in Quebec City, bound for South Africa and the Boer War. The film was used to raise patriotic interest in the war.
The Bioscope Company of Halifax, the first Canadian film production company, produces a series of scenes for Canadian Pacific Railways to encourage British immigration to Canada.
Joe Rosenthal directs Hiawatha, The Messiah of the Ojibways, the first dramatic short to be made in Canada. Léo-Ernest Ouimet establishes Canada’s first film exchange in Montreal.
Ouimet opens his first “Ouimetoscope” in Montreal, and films the first Canadian newsreels to show in his theatre. The American-born Barney Allen and his sons Jules and Jay, open their first storefront theatre in Brantford, Ontario.
Ouimet opens the largest (1,200 seat) luxury theatre in North America in Montreal.
The Allens launch their first film exchange, the Allen Amusement Corporation.
The Allens open their first luxury theatre – the 800-seat Allen Theatre in Calgary. Barney Allen, and his sons Jules and Jay, at one time controlled the largest chain of movie houses in Canada through a company called Allen Theatre Enterprises.
Evangeline, the first Canadian feature, is shot in Nova Scotia by the Bioscope Company.