Lights! Camera! Action! How the Lumière brothers invented the movies

In 1895, Louis and Auguste Lumière gave birth to the big screen thanks to their revolutionary camera and projector, the Cinématographe.

Auguste (left) and Louis Lumière in a photograph believed to have been taken in the late 1890s, and later colorized
Photograph by AKG/Album

Auguste and Louis Lumière invented a camera that could record, develop, and project film, but they regarded their creation as little more than a curious novelty. Shortly after the public premiere of their film, Louis was said to have remarked: “Le cinéma est une invention sans avenir—Cinema is an invention with­out a future.” (See also: Explore your favorite movie worlds through beautiful, hand-painted maps.)

This prediction was the Lumières only scientific miscalculation, for this sibling pair created an unprecedented form of art and entertainment that radically influenced popular culture. Their Cinémato­graphe introduced a crucial innovation: By projecting moving images onto a large screen, it created a new, shared experience of cinema. The first "movies" were born.

In 1870, as France reeled from invasion in the Franco­-Prussian war, Antoine Lumière moved his family from the hazardous eastern border of the country to the city of Lyon. A portrait painter and award-­winning photographer, he opened a small business in pho­tographic plates in his new home.

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