The world’s oldest surviving public movie theater, the Eden Theatre in the town of La Ciotat 20 miles east of Marseille on the south coast of France, has been restored and reopened after 30 years of neglect.
In a gala opening this little town’s prominent place in film history was reclaimed with a showing of some of the first moving pictures ever filmed, shot in 1895 by the Lumière brothers in La Ciotat’s summer sun.
In 1892, Antoine Lumière, father of the soon-to-be-famous brothers, had a seaside mansion built in La Ciotat. A friend of his had introduced him to the town and he had fallen in love with its charms.
After construction on the Tuscan-style villa known as Château Lumière was completed in 1893, entire family spent summers there. The timing was ideal to make the sleepy town of 12,000 a dominant figure in movie history.
According to one popular view of events, Antoine saw Edison’s Kinetoscope in Paris in 1894 and suggested to his sons that they look into improving on Edison’s device which was heavy, dependent on electricity and only allowed one person at a time to view the motion picture through a peephole.
Within months, Louis had invented combination device that shot the film, developed it and projected it.
The brothers patented the Cinématographe on February 13th, 1895, using the name of an earlier recording and projecting device patented by Léon Bouly in February of 1892.
By 1894 Bouly could no longer afford the fees to renew his patents, so the Lumière’s snapped up the name.
Some historians believe Louis took more than just the name from Bouly’s device, but if so, he improved upon it drastically. Louis insisted he came up with the idea all on his own, denying even the story about his father and the Kinetoscope.
On March 22nd, 1895, the first movie audience witnessed La Sortie de l’Usine (“Exiting the factory”), less than a minute of footage of workers, mainly women, leaving the Lumière photographic plate factory in Lyons shot three days before the showing.
This demonstration took place in Paris for a private audience at the Société d’Encouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale (Society for the Encouragement of National Industry).