The 100th anniversary of cinema was marked throughout the world in 1995/6. Amongst the widespread celebrations it was largely overlooked that genuine motion pictures had been commercially shown 101 years earlier, and that the origins of the film industry lay in a peepshow device rather than the more familiar movie projector. Introduced in New York in April 1894 and in Paris and London later in the same year, Thomas Edison's electrically-driven Kinetoscope was the first practical method of film exhibition. Around a thousand of these state-of-the art machines were manufactured, featuring the first brief fiction films and the earliest newsreels. Techniques such as the close-up and stop-editing were introduced and the 35mm film employed became a universal standard. Edison was able to influence the development of the device in the United States, but he soon lost control of the British and European markets. Spearheaded by two entrepreneurial Greek merchants, George Georgiades and George Tragides, a large and often colorful group of showmen began to exploit the new invention. With Edison neglecting to obtain European patents, his agents fought a losing battle to stem an influx of 'bogus' Kinetoscopes onto the market. Leading the construction of replica Kinetoscopes was a young and ambitious electrical engineer who was to become central to the development of world cinema. In his business arrangements with the Greeks Robert William Paul operated close to the limits of legality, a risk-taking attitude that also led him to enter into a partnership with the notorious fraudster and self-publicist 'Viscount' Hinton. The rush to exploit the Kinetoscope faltered when Edison refused to supply films for pirate machines, but regained momentum when Paul and the American Birt Acres constructed their own camera, shooting the first British movies in March/April 1895. The turbulent and often unlikely events of 1894–5 were a crucial prelude to the birth of British cinema.
The position of the Kinetoscope in film history is central and undisputed. An indication of its importance is provided by the detailed attention American scholars have given to examining its history. However, the Kinetoscope's development in Britain has not been well documented and much current information about it is incomplete and out of date. The purpose of the book is, for the first time, to present a comprehensive account, utilizing many previously unpublished sources. The commercial and technical backgrounds of the Kinetoscope are looked at in detail; the style and content of the earliest British films analyzed; and the device's place in the wider world of Victorian popular entertainment examined. A unique legal case is revealed and a number of previously unrecorded film pioneers are identified and discussed. Each of the three authors are recognized specialists in their chosen area of early British film history, and two of them have collaborated previously in a book-length study of a Victorian film company.
Introduction: An International Perspective and Timeline
Part One [Richard Brown]
Chapter 1. Early Developments
Pre-October 1894 notices in Britain about the Kinetoscope. Exhibition of the 'Electrical Wonder' a forerunner. Original exploitation plans by Colonel Gouraud. The formation of the Continental Commerce Company and their agreement with Edison for the sale of Kinetoscopes in the UK.
Chapter 2. The Arrival of the Kinetoscope in Britain
Initial reaction. Press notices on the opening of the Oxford Street shop. The phonograph business and its background of illegality. Both the Kinetoscope and the phonograph promoted under the 'umbrella' of Edison's name. Leading phonograph personalities, such as J. L. Young and James Hough become interested in the Kinetoscope business. Hough and his connection with the Greeks and Chinnock. Plans to market 'bogus' machines. Arrival on the scene of Robert Paul and Birt Acres.
Chapter 3. The Legal and Historical Context to the Kinetoscope in Britain
The importance of correctly understanding English intellectual property law in interpreting the history of the Kinetoscope. Photographic copyright and how it correctly defines the commercial relationship between Paul and Acres. Claims made by both examined and assessed. The English patent system and Edison's attitude to patents. English patent applications for Kinetoscopes and Kineto-Phonographs. The Merchandise Marks Act and the law relating to 'Passing Off'. The Kinetoscope Court Case. What it did and what it did not do. The incomplete and inaccurate transmission of historical information and the difficulties this has caused to film history before April 1896. The problem of 'manipulation' in the statements of both Acres and Paul.
Chapter 4. Marketing the Kinetoscope ritain
The commercial and operational aspects of Kinetoscope exhibition. The economic base defined. Price behaviour. Profit and capital return periods defined. The importance of West Yorkshire in Kinetoscope history. Cecil Wray, and John Henry Rigg and the design innovation of his 'Baby' Kinetoscope. Other showmen such as James Walker, J. H. Quain, Alfred Lomax and Fred Duval. Advertising methods used.
Chapter 5. Commercial Decline and the Arrival of Projected Film
The decline in both purchase and sale price of machines quantified. Reduction of prices by the Continental Commerce Company. The downgrading 'role' of the Kinetoscope
– from 'star' attraction to peripheral attraction at Church bazaars, etc. Paul sells up his Earl's Court machines. The 'Time Machine' entertainment re-examined. Acres and projected film. Early Acres and Paul demonstrations. January to end of March 1896. Later notices. Ran in parallel with film projection, as it had with the phonograph. Conclusions.
Part Two [Barry Anthony]
Chapter 6. The films of Paul and Acres
Looks at Paul's and Acres' environments in Hatton Garden and Barnet. Study of British Kinetoscope films and their cultural background.
Chapter 7. A Premiere at the Nag's Head
Paul's exploitation of his Kinetoscope and relationship with the notorious Lord Hinton. Break up of Paul/Acres partnership.
Chapter 8. Magic, Magnates and Galvanic Forces
Looks at the careers of Frederick William Trautner/Duval; Samuel Stott/Herr Samuels; 'Professor'Alfred Jones and Alfred Henry Vidler. Also music hall's two main business figures Hugh Moss and Oswald Stoll and their exploitation of Kinetoscope. Discussion of changing face of entertainment. Becoming more family orientated. Creation of large scale entertainment venues.
Chapter 9. The Kaiser's Kinetoscope
Acres filming of the Opening of Kaiser Wilhelm Canal and Sedan Day celebrations. Potential of film as a propaganda medium.
Chapter 10. First Transatlantic Filming
Edison's cameraman Theodore Heise and his short sojourn in Europe. Harry Short's possible filming trip to US in March 1896.
Chapter 11. The Charters Towers Kinetophone Mystery
Compares mysterious Australian Kinetophone films with known phonograph recordings. Looks at Andrew Holland's possible connection. Also examines the importance of celebrities/celebrity in Kinetoscope and film forever after.
Chapter 12. A New World of Entertainment
Looks at social backgrounds of Alfred Lomax, Frederick Dalton and the Simpson brothers and how they fitted into the wider entertainment system. Examines holiday resorts and the Kinetoscope fitting into a world of new technology.
I. The Legal Case; II. List of Kinetoscope Exhibitions in UK; III. List of UK Kinetoscope films (including Acres' German films); IV. Newspaper Review of the play Outcasts of London, July 1895