The First "Movie Show" - The Miracle of Modern Photography

On a June day in 1894, an amateur inventor named Jenkins arrived at his home town in Indiana on vacation from his job in the Treasury Department, Washington.

A mysterious box had preceded him. When it was unpacked, the neighbors were called in to see what was to be known in history as "the first movie show" the first exhibition of motion pictures projected on a screen.

When Jenkins exhibited his motion pictures at an Atlanta exposition, people refused to pay the admission fee in advance. The exhibitor had to let his patrons go in first and see the miracle, before they could be convinced that it was not a swindle.

A combination of the Edison and Jenkins-Armat interests resulted in the creation of the Vitascope, a radical improvement over the picture machines into which one looked through an eye-piece, or "peep-hole."

Nature No Obstacle in Motion Pictures

Courtesy Goldwyn

When the play calls for " snow-stuff " the motion picture producer often
goes miles to get it, and, as in this case, augments the natural light with
our lights

Walking The Chalk Line in Motion Pictures

Courtesy Goldwyn

This director takes no chances with the success of his wedding scene. He sits on the traveling camera platform trailing a weighted line to keep the actors in the middle of the imaginary church aisle

Even those of us that are not very old can remember the names of some of the first motion picture stories,—" The Buffalo Horse Market," "The Black Diamond Express," " Niagara Falls,"

"The Pillow Fight," "Feeding the Pigeons." The first "long" film was " The Great Train Robbery." It consumed 1800 feet of film, and cost four hundred dollars to produce. Great was the public's astonishment in the viewing of it.

A dozen years ago "picture acts" became a part of the program of popular vaudeville houses, and at the Eden Musee, in New York, Edison " topicals" were shown. It was about that time that I began to make film plays at the old Biograph Studio on Fourteenth Street, New York.

Staging An Automobile Wreck

Behind the screen with director and cameraman

In the thirteen years that have passed, I have made five hundred pictures. Some of my early photo-tales were created under strenuous conditions. When I proposed making a two-reel drama, my backers declared that people would never sit through such a long picture.

We compromised by cutting the first two-reel picture in half. We named the first part "His Faith," and the second, " His Faith Fulfilled." The public liked it and asked for more. Not long afterwards I made a five-reel picture, "The Escape," and then the first ten-reel drama, "The Birth of a Nation."

Most screen plays are now five reels (5,000 feet) long. A few "master productions" run to ten reels. Weeks of research, experiment, rehearsal; the talent and patient industry of authors, continuity writers, directors and actors, of artisans, artists, decorators, costumers, lighting experts, "location scouts," cameramen and their assistants, contribute to the finished picture.

Making An Emotional Close-Up in Motion Pictures

Courtesy Realart

The director rehearses the actress until her performance satisfies him; lights are called for and the camera begins to grind. She must go through the scene amid a running fire of orders from the director.

Source: THE MENTOR, Volume 9, Number 6, July 1, 1921, Page 7-10

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