“The cinema is an invention without a future.”
Louis Lumière, 1895
From Antoine Lumière to Jules Carpentier
Paris, 28 December 1895
20 rue Delambre
Dear Mr. Carpentier,
I'll make sure everything is ready at six o’clock. So be at the Grand Café at that time with the people you want. Handshake.
In an otherwise uneventful and rather dreadful year for cinemas, December 28 marks the 125th anniversary of the first public screening hosted by the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière in the basement of the Grand Café on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. It was preceded however by an earlier presentation of their “cinématographe”, on March 22nd, when they projected their first film Sortie des ouvriers de l’usine de Monplaisir for the very first and very tiny crowd. The audience at the Grand Café was larger in numbers but their astonishment was no less. Followed by countless other screenings and a rapid and steady spread of the new phenomenon, cinema had arrived. Here you can read an English translation of the classic account by the Russian writer Maxim Gorki about his discovery of the cinematograph at a fair in Nizhny-Novgorod in July 1896. You can read a reflection on this text, dedicated to José-Luis Guerín, by writer and filmmaker Peter Delpeut here [in Dutch].
Two texts have appeared previously on Sabzian regarding this occasion: Georges-Michel Coissac’s first-hand narrative on the first screenings and the travelogue of Alexandre Promio, one of the first opérateurs sent abroad to film city sceneries with the cinematographe.
Thierry Frémaux’s film Lumière! L’aventure commence (2017) is available for rent here. You can also watch Eric Rohmer’s 1968 film in which Henri Langlois and Jean Renoir champion the artistic merit of Louis Lumière in a discussion about his films. The historic program with the 10 films shown on December 28, 1895 can be watched on website of the Institut Lumière in Lyon.
Example of the first invitation cards
Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière
- 1. A letter from the father of the Lumières adressed to Jules Carpentier, the inventor of the submarine periscope, among other things.