125 years of Magical Dreaming

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good afternoon. Today is the 125th anniversary of the first screening of a film in Human History, which took place in the Salon Indien, a small billiard room of the Grand Café in Paris (at the present time it is occupied by the Hotel Scribe) Louis and Auguste Lumière, inventors of the seventh artform, initially tried to rent space in the Musée Grévin or the Folies Bergères but they were roundly rebuffed by the management of both prestigious places. Finally they convinced Mr. Vopini, owner of the 100 places-salon, to rent it for the sum of 35 francs per day; even though they offered him a cut of the profits, he politely declined to participate in the business (an incredibly silly decision)

That day the brothers Lumière held a small conference for notables and journalists earlier in the afternoon to advertise their nightly show; however, they could not convince a single one of them to attend it Saturday night. They could attract exactly 35 badauds (passers-by, which has a connotation of leisurely walking by in French) that paid one Franc each for a total 35 Francs at the box office. The anxious spectators were really expecting a show of marionettes or the Chinese style play with candles. When lights went out and an attendant started to tinker with a box illuminated from the inside, they knew it was different. Then images started to flicker on a white wall upfront.

Mesmerized, those lucky few watched the crude projection of a few sketches of poor technical quality, one after the other. According to an excellent commemorative article in Herodote.net, they saw La sortie des ouvrières de l’Usine Lumière (the exit of the working women form the Lumière factory), Leçon de Voltige à Cheval ( a lesson of horse acrobatics), Pêche aux Poissons rouges, etc. Word of mouth produced a quick reaction of the Parisian public that started to throng the Grand Café to view the marvelous invention. The director of the Musée Grévin rushed to offer 20,000 Francs for the new invention (an exorbitant amount of money) but the Lumière brothers turned it down; the same happened when the owner of the Folies Bergères doubled that offer. It was not that they were waiting for a  bigger cash-out with their invention. On the contrary, they honestly believed that it had no commercial potential and wanted to spare their rich friends from a bad investment. Auguste Lumière told the illusionist Georges Méliès:

“You should thank me, I am sparing you from financial ruin, because that contraption, simple scientific curiosity, does not have any commercial future.”

These two successful businessmen enjoyed the public success of their invention and started to open many cinemas all over Paris; their ultimate worldwide consecration came during the Expositiom Universelle de Paris in 1900. On a humongous screen of 336 square meters, they made 80,000 spectators dream awake simultaneously. Que c’est beau!

We have all, sometime in our lives, dreamt awake in the flickering darkness of a movie theater, with good company.

Let us hope that after this terrible pandemic finally passes away, we can recover that unique magical experience. 

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’ leave me alone.