The Kinetoscope

The Kinetoscope

A British History
Richard Brown and Barry Anthony
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/19/2017
Format: Paperback 30 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-861-96730-8
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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 posit

Author Bio

Richard Brown is author of The History of the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company and editor of the facsimile edition of W. K-L. Dickson’s The Biograph in Battle: Its Story in the South African War.

Barry Anthony is author of Murder, Mayhem and Music Hall and contributor to Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema; the Encyclopaedia of Early Cinema; and Directors in British and Irish Cinema: A Reference Companion.

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Table of Contents

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