The Beginnings of Cinema – the History of Film

The history of cinema - Lumiere Brothers

The Lumière brothers

Cinema in the sense of technical construction does not have one particular inventor. This is because the discovery of the possibility of filming and projection consisted of hundreds of years of experiments undertaken in different parts of the world.

The origins of cinema date back to very distant times. The prototype of cinema, and above all photography, is considered to be a device called camera obskura (“optical darkroom”) invented as early as a thousand years BC. Over the following centuries, attempts were made to improve further apparatuses for producing and viewing moving images, and these efforts began to yield particular results in the 19th century. The milestone on the road to cinema was, of course, the discovery of photography, which was officially announced by the French Academy of Sciences in 1839. A plethora of inventions followed then, such as Ottomar Anschutz’s electric quick-sight, the philoscope and Edison’s kinetoscope.

The beginnings of cinema – Edison’s kinetophonograph and the Lumiere brothers

Among experts on the subject, two views coexist side by side on the actual beginning of cinema. As Tadeusz Lubelski points out, in the Anglo-American tradition the invention of Edison’s Kinetophonograph in 1889 is considered the inaugural event in the history of the 10th Muse, while in Europe the prevailing belief is that the proper initiation of cinema was the cinematograph, i.e. the first public screening of a film. This screening of a film by brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere took place on December 28, 1895, in the Indian Salon in the basement of the Grand Café in Paris, on Boulevard des Capucines. Other important moments in the earliest stage of cinematography were the creation of John Macintyre’s first X-ray film (1896), the showing of a panorama of the Trans-Siberian railroad and the creation of a wagon cinema (Hale’s Tours) at the Saint Louis World Exposition (1904).

History of film -cinematographe


Photographer and Illusionist

The history of cinema began in France, which is the home of film – for the invaluable foundations for this art were laid by two Frenchmen – Louis Lumiere and Georges Melies. The former was a photographer, and it was this art that in his case became the beginning of documentary film. Melies, on the other hand, was involved in illusionist theater, and his works are considered precursors to feature films. Lumiere was not only the inventor of the cinematograph, but also a cinematographic author and the first cinematographic producer. Melies went down in the history of cinema as the creator of most film genres: adventure cinema, historical cinema, science fiction, etc.

Program of the first film screening

At the memorable inaugural screening of the Grand Café cinema (1895), ten films were screened. They were:

“Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory”

„Horse Trick Riders”

“Fishing for Goldfish”

“Cordeliers Square in Lyon”

“The Disembarkment of the Congress of Photographers in Lyon”


“The Gardener”

“Baby’s Breakfast”

“Jumping Onto the Blanket”

“The Sea”

The author of all the films was Louis Lumiere.

In Poland, the first screening of the cinematograph took place in Krakow, in November 1896. Twelve films were screened at the time, including four from the Paris screening (Breakfast, Postal Square, Glade Pourer, Bath). Of course, at that time the terms were not yet used: “cinema” and “film,” but it is known that starting with the Paris screening we are dealing with the initiation of the art of the big screen. Only 33 people attended the screening at the Salon des Indies, so it seems significant that after three weeks the cinematograph already had 2,500 viewers a day. It can certainly be said that the invention of cinema revolutionized popular culture and our perception of reality, which after the era of the Lumiere brothers was never again what it was before.


Kino nieme, pod red. T. Lubelskiego, I. Sowińskiej, R. Syskiej, Kraków 2010