The Lumière Brothers invented the Cinema

Auguste and Louis Lumiére

Auguste and Louis Lumiére

On December 28, 1895, the Lumière Brothers performed 10 movies for their first paying audience at the Grand Cafe in Boulevard des Capucines, marking the debut of the cinema.

The Lumière brothers attended a famous technical school in Lyon and their father owned a photography business both sons were employed in, which were in the 19th century probably the best conditions for a major success in the film business.

Louis Lumière made several technical improvements to the field of photography, paving their way to produce moving images. And when their father left the business for retirement in 1892, the brothers took action and began producing their first films, which they needed further technical improvements for and patented several of these including the cinematograph. Even though it is not clear whether the brothers really invented the machine, they held its patent from the early 1890’s. The machine was about to revolutionize mass entertainment due to its combination of a camera, a printer and a projector. The first movies were publicly projected at Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris. During this history making event, 10 short films were demonstrated including the first movie ever recorded ‘Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon‘. Each movie was about 50 seconds long and highly fascinated the people of Lyon and beyond. One of the movies ‘The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station’, was subject of an urban legend, well known in the world of cinema. The story goes that when the film was first shown, the audience was so overwhelmed by the moving image of a life-sized train coming directly at them that people screamed and ran to the back of the room.

The first performance outside of Paris took place on 1 March 1896 in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert in Brussels. Afterwards, there were regular screenings with eight to ten films each and a total duration of about 20 minutes. It is believed their first film was recorded that same year (1895) with Léon Bouly’s cinématographe device, which was patented the previous year. The date of the recording of their first film is in dispute. In an interview with Georges Sadoul given in 1948, Louis Lumière tells that he shot the film in August 1894.

Due to the instant success, the brothers were able to open their first cinematograph theaters, which were later better known as cinemas in metropolis around the globe like New York or London. At the Paris Exhibition of 1900, they projected their movies on a screen measuring 16 by 21 meters with their improved cinematograph. Since films were enjoyed by all classes of society, the brother’s success was unstoppable, the film industry was born and depicts an important part of our lives until today.

Actually, the Lumière brotheres had several competitors, who all claimed top have invented cinema:  Jean-Aimé LeRoy claimed that in February 1894, in front of 20 to 25 invited guests, he projected a film with a home-made apparatus. In 1895 there were numerous demonstrations of moving images, for example by Thomas Armat and Charles Francis Jenkins in Washington, D. C., Woodville Latham in New York and Robert William Paul in London. The Skladanowsky brothers, who had already been able to present their bioscope a month earlier on November 1, 1895 in the Berlin Variété Wintergarten, also took part in the presentation of the Lumière. Although the Lumière brothers were not the first inventors to develop techniques to create motion pictures, they are often credited as among the first inventors of the technology for cinema as a mass medium, and are among the first who understood how to use it.

At yovisto, you may enjoy two of the earliest movies by the Lumière Brothers. Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat and Baby`s lunch, both produced in 1895.


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