A (Very) Brief History of Cinema

“The cinema is an invention without a future.” So said Louis Lumiere in and around 1895. Give or take a few years. Thankfully he was wrong and I’m sure the irony of the fact that there’s an animated candlestick named after him and his brother Auguste in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” isn’t lost on anyone.

The first machine invented which could show animated pictures or movies was called “the wheel of life” or “zoopraxiscope”. I for one am surprised that particular moniker didn’t stick. It was patented in the US in 1867 by William Lincoln but given the fact that moving drawings or photographs had to be watched through a slit in the… zoopraxiscope, it’s fairly obvious why it didn’t catch on as a national pastime. So how did the idea of modern cinema evolve from the zoopraxiscope? I’m sorry, I just like saying it.

The aforementioned Louis Lumiere is often credited with inventing the first motion picture camera in 1895 but in actuality several such inventions emerged around the same time. What he really invented was a portable motion picture camera, a film processing unit and projector all rolled into one. He called it the Cinematographe. Not sure what his brother called it as he seems to have had nothing to do with it. Although the Edison company had successfully demonstrated the Kinetoscope (yet another catchy title) in 1881, it only enabled one person at a time to watch the pictures. They should’ve taken it to Amsterdam. The Lumiere brothers were the first to project moving pictures to an audience of more than one person. And we have them to thank for the fact that we don’t all head to the zoopraxiscope to see the latest blockbusters.