Movies : Behind the Lens

Watching movies has been an important part of our culture for over 100 years.

A chain of inventions dating back to the 1800's have played a key role in contributing to our modern day movie theaters. Here are a few key inventions.

William Horner's Zoetrope

William George Horner introduced this illusion toy in 1834. It used the persistence of motion to create an illusion of motion.

Horner originally called the toy a Daedalum, "wheel of the devil," but it was later renamed the zoetrope, "wheel of life," by an American, William F. Lincoln, who bought the patent 30 years later.



Edison's Kinetoscope

Kinetoscope - picture from name Kinetoscope is derived from the Greek words "kineto" meaning "movement" and "scopos" meaning "to watch."

In 1891, Thomas Edison's employee, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, produced the first commercially developed projected moving image and displayed it to the members of the National Federation of Women's Clubs. People were paying to view the Kinetoscope four years later, but the viewing experience was meant for an individual or a family, definitely not a theater full of people.

Dickinson left the company a year later, and Edison took full credit for the process.

Lumiere Brothers' Cinematographe

Cinematographe - photo from and Auguste Lumiere produced a device that acted as both a camera and a projector, the cinematographe, in 1895. The device was capable of showing an image that could be viewed by a large audience.

They held the first public screening, generally considered "the birth of film," in a Paris cafe. One film shown, "The Arrival of a Train," was said to have caused a stampede.


"Let's all go to the lobby"
Check out a classic "let's all go to the lobby" clip from Filmack Studios.

Look at a timeline of early cinema from

Learn how to build your own zoetrope from the paper puzzle parade.

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