120 Years of Cinema: The Lumière Brothers and their First Public Screening of Films!

Today’s date is often considered as the BIRTH OF CINEMA! On 28 December, 1895, the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière held the first public commercial screening of films, for which admission was charged – at the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris, France.

Lumiere

The first film that was projected was the 46-Second short actuality documentary, “Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory” (shot in 35 mm format, aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and speed of 16 fps). Three separate versions of the film exist, and you can watch them in the embedded player below.

The public debut at the Grand Café included the following ten short films (in order of presentation):

1. La Sortie de l’Usine Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory) – 46 seconds
2. Le Jardinier (The Gardener) -49 seconds
3. Le Débarquement du Congrès de Photographie à Lyon (the disembarkment of the Congress of Photographers in Lyon) – 48 seconds
4. La Voltige (Horse Trick Riders) – 46 seconds
5. La Pêche aux poissons rouges (Fishing for goldfish) – 42 seconds
6. Les Forgerons (The Blacksmiths) – 49 seconds
7. Repas de bébé (Baby’s Breakfast) – 41 seconds
8. Le Saut à la couverture (Jumping Onto the Blanket) – 41 seconds
9. La Places des Cordeliers à Lyon (Cordeliers Square in Lyon) – 44 seconds
10. La Mer (The sea) – 38 seconds

Although the Lumière brothers were not the first inventors to create motion pictures, they are considered the world’s first filmmakers, due to their understanding of the technology. They were the first to bring cinema to a wider audience, creating a mass medium and the early foundations of the cinematic art.

The brothers filmed these actuality films using a device they called the Cinématographe, from which the word ‘Cinema’ is derived. The device was a variation of a version patented in 1892 by inventor Léon Guillaume Bouly. A simple, yet ingenious contraption, the Cinematograph also served a film projector and printer. The brothers looked to better Thomas Edison’s kinetograph, which could not be used for projection and was not portable.

Lumiere2

Lumiere

After the success of their screening, the Lumieres toured the world with their Cinematograph. They increased their staff and started producing hundreds of short films, paving the way for the implementation of editing around the turn of the 20th century. Film gradually evolved from a novelty invention to a true art form.

For the curious, Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory is not the oldest surviving recorded film in existence. French inventor Louis Le Prince’s Roundhay Garden Scene was made seven years prior to the Workers screening, on October 14, 1888 (according to Le Prince’s son, Adolphe).

The original film was shot at a speed of 12 fps, however the later digital remastered version, runs at 24.64 fps, a modern cinematographic frame rate, so it plays in only 2.11 seconds. The National Science Museum copy has 20 frames; at 12 fps, producing a run time of 1.66 seconds.

You can watch it here, in the embedded player below.