Key architects in the evolution of the motion picture industry, brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière established themselves as a European counterpart to the likes of American innovators WK Laurie Dickson and Thomas Edison, laying the groundwork for the development of the cinema both as a means of artistic expression as well as a form of public entertainment. Natives of Besancon, France, Auguste (born October 19, 1862) and Louis (born October 5, 1864) were pushed into exploring motion pictures in 1894 by their father, a painter who during a recent voyage to the United States had been witness to a showing of Edison's Kinetoscope and who challenged his sons to merge moving images with a means of projection.
The Lumières began their research by examining the work of Edison and Dickson, whose cameras were stationary and extremely heavy. Additionally, the Kinetoscope's films could only be viewed through a peephole, by one person at a time. The brothers' aim was not only to successfully combine the camera and projector, but also economize them. By 1895, they had devised the Cinematographe, a hand-cranked camera which trimmed the frame speed of the Kinetoscope from 48 to just 16 while also using less film. Even more impressively, the Cinematographe was a self-contained unit complete with a projector; better still, it was light enough to allow the Lumières to move about freely, allowing them to escape the confines of the studio to explore the world at large.
Over the course of the next year, the siblings shot some 60 short films. The first picture ever projected, Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory, was screened for a group of photographers and inventors on December 28, 1895. Although the Lumières' first films were simple, pedestrian works, they remain the template for much of what followed. Their Watering the Garden was the very first motion picture comedy, while later works emerged as the first newsreel, documentary, and so forth, essentially establishing the concept of film narrative and structure. Regardless of the movies' content, their Parisian public was enraptured and more than a little awestruck. At one famous early screening of The Arrival of a Train, audiences literally rushed to the back of the room in terror when the locomotive entered the station.
By 1897, the Lumières had begun training the technique of camera operation for additional exhibitions. They also started refashioning their family owned factory, previously devoted to the production of photographic plates, in order to manufacture and sell film equipment. Following Edison's lead, they additionally began renting out their library of over 750 motion pictures to theater owners. As distribution continued to grow more and more competitive, the Lumières halted production in 1900. Louis died on June 6, 1948, in Bandol, France, followed by Auguste on April 10, 1954, in Lyon. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi