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Early Lumière FilmEarly Lumière Film

Lumière, name of two brothers, Auguste (1862-1954) and Louis (1864-1948), French photographic manufacturers, inventors, and pioneer filmmakers, who in 1895 invented an early picture camera that also functioned as a projector. In contrast to the cumbersome machine of American inventor Thomas Alva Edison, their device was lightweight and reasonably portable—well suited for outdoor use. Moreover, it used less film, operated more quietly, and projected more smoothly than the Edison camera. They called their device the Cinématographe, from which the word cinema is derived. Their short film, La Sortie des usines Lumière (Quitting Time at the Lumière Factory), probably the first real motion picture ever made, was shown in 1895 at the Grand Café on the Boulevard des Capuchines in Paris, together with several short clips, one of which startled the audience with the image of an oncoming train. This occasion is regarded by some scholars as the birth of world cinema.

Increasing their staff rapidly, the Lumière brothers produced myriad short subjects, typically newsreels or documentaries, and by 1898 their film catalog included more than 1,000 motion pictures. Nonetheless, they believed the new invention to be merely a novelty and told French pioneer George Meliès (who would explore the storytelling capabilities of the medium) that “cinema is an invention without a future.” See also Motion Pictures, History of.

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