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Motion Pictures


First Photographs of Motion

The first successful photographs of motion were made in 1877 by Eadweard Muybridge, a British Photographer working in California. Muybridge took a series of photographs of a running horse. For his project Muybridge set up a row of cameras ( first 12 and then 24 ), with strings attached to their shutters. When the horse ran by it broke each string in succession, tripping the shutters.

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The First Commercial Motion Picture Machine

Many inventors over the world worked on Muybridge's feat, and Thomas Edison's company displayed the first commercial motion picture machine at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Edison called his machine the Kinetoscope. It was a cabinet showing unenlarged 35 millimetre black and white films running about 90 seconds. An individual watched through a peephole as the film moved on spools.


The First Projected Motion Pictures

However the Kinetoscopes were soon replaced by projection machines that threw greatly enlarged pictures onto a screen. These new machines allowed many people to view a single film at the same time.

The Lumiere Brothers in France held a public screening of projected motion pictures on the 28th December, 1895, in a Paris Cafe.

Thomas Edison, using an adapted projector from Thomas Armat, presented the first public exhibition of projected motion pictures in the United States on the 23rd April, 1896.

Film screenings soon became a popular entertainment. The most popular subjects included re creations of current news events, such as battles of the Spanish American War of 1898, and dramatised folk tales.

Films were made without recorded synchronised sound. However exhibitors sometimes accompanied the images with music or lectures, or even used off screen live actors to provide dialogue.

Later printed subtitles were inserted within the films. The titles gave dialogue, description of action, or commentary. Titles permitted the international circulation of films, because translated titles could easily replace the originals.

The First Motion Picture Story

Edwin Porter, who worked for Edison as a director and cameraman, produced a film in 1903, The Great Train Robbery. This film portrayed a train robbery and the pursuit and capture of the robbers. The 11 minute Western became a sensational hit. Porter was the first director to use modern film techniques to tell a story.


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Above is a scene from the first motion picture The Great Train Robbery, 1903.


The First Motion Picture Theatres

Porter's film and the storytelling movies that followed opened the way for a major breakthrough in motion picture exhibition - the Nickelodeon Theatre.

Beginning about 1905, thousands of these theatres opened in American cities. Most nickelodeons were stores converted into theatres by adding chairs. They charged 5 cents ( one nickel ), hence the name nickel odeon. They showed their silent movies, whilst a pianist played music that suited the action on the screen.

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The first picture theatres were called Nickelodeons, as they charged one nickel or 5 cents to see the film. Above is a nickelodeon with the accompanying pianist. These began about 1905.


The First Sound Film

The first sound film which created a sensation was The Jazz Singer, 1927. Although silent for much of its length, in a few scenes the popular American Entertainer Al Jolson sang and spoke in synchronous sound. The film used a system in which the sound from a mechanically recorded disk was mechanically synchronised with the film strip.

This system was soon replaced by one that used electronic signals to record the sound directly on the film strip. The sound on film system was widely used by 1929.


Motion Pictures of  Official Signing

of Australia's Federation January 1901

The actual filming of the Official Signing of Australia's Federation in the Domain in Sydney in January 1901 is available on video from the Corowa Museum.

As you can see from the above, this is a film that not only is important from the Australian Historical viewpoint, but is a motion film or newsreel made only 5 years after the very first motion picture screening by the Lumiere Brothers in France in December 1895.

This Australian Film is made two years before the first motion picture story, The Great Train Robbery, was made in 1903.

In our region we have three historical movie picture attractions.



Film of the Signing of Federation

Corowa Museum

An Original Film Theatre & Projectors Chiltern Grapevine Theatre
Theatre still showing "Old" Films Swanpool Theatre, near Benalla


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