A Centennial Salute to Cinema

Projecting Moving Images

Thomas Edison's 1894 Kinetoscope, provided views of images but not projection, limited viewing audiences in Kinetoscope parlors to one person at a time.

By 1895, inventors in Europe and the United States had designed several projectors that enlarged film images for viewing by large groups: the Cinematographe, invented in France by Auguste and Louis Lumiere; the Phantoscope of Charles Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat, of Washington, DC; and the Woodville Latham family's Eidoloscope.

Closed and open views of the "Cinematographe camera/projector designed by Auguste and Louis Lumiere. It was first privately demonstrated in March 1895, and the public premiere was December 28, 1895. (Photos by Rick Vargas)

The Phantascope became the basis of Thomas Edison's Vitascope projector. These developments owed much to George Eastman's invention of roll film, followed by transparency film, that enabled the same camera to make multiple photographs in a series.

(Right) "Vitascope" projector, (a "Phantascope" projector slightly altered by Thomas Armat). The Phantascope was designed jointly by C. Frances Jenkins and Armat, and shown at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta, Ga. in October 1895. Armat sold his rights to Edison, who claimed its invention. (Photo by Rick Vargas)

Movies Today

And the world's love affair with motion pictures continues. Two billion people around the world tuned in this year's Academy Awards telecase to see who won the Oscars. Millions past and present since 1895 took up film making themselves, pulling out movie cameras and video cassette recorders to preserve baby's first steps, graduations, family gatherings, weddings, and other milestones. At the century mark, movies--with their power to both mirror and manipulate, to blur fact and fiction, to romanticize, to vilify, to enlighten--remain one of our strongest forms of expression.

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Copyright 1995 Smithsonian Institution