First Lumiere Screening

115 years ago–December 28, 1895–the first motion picture screening took place in Paris. Auguste and Pierre Lumiere set up their Cinematographe projector (it also worked as a camera and printer) at the Hotel Scribe in the Salon Indien. At the time, it was a billiard room of the Grand Cafe at the corner of Rue Scribe and Boulevard des Capucines. Today, it is the breakfast room of the Hotel Scribe. Historic pictures and reproductions line the walls. Not surprisingly, the cafe upstairs is named the Cafe Lumiere.

We’re here for the 150th anniversary of the Hotel Scribe. In a few days, we’ll travel to the Lumiere Museum in Lyon, and on Monday, December 13, will attend the 75th anniversary celebration of Angenieux in St. Heand. A lot of of anniversaries.

The Lumiere screening on the afternoon of Dec 28, 1895 was for invited guests. The public show that evening cost 1 Franc per person. It was not an auspicious success: only 33 seats of 100  were occupied. Nevertheless, word got out, and a few weeks later, over 2500 people were lining up to see the first projected movies in history. Louis Lumiere was the cinematographer.

The big difference between the films of Lumiere and Edison were subject, style and exhibition. Edison’s early films were shown one person at a time on “peep show” Kinetoscopes. Equipment was big and heavy, and most were shot in studios. The Lumiere films were shot with small, light, portable Cinematographes, documentary style, mostly on location. From 1896 to 1905, more than 1400 Lumiere films of 50 seconds were shot on location around the world. Democratization of the art form had already begun.

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