and the Vitascope (1895-1896)
Advertisement for the Vitascope
motion picture projector, marketed by the Edison Manufacturing Company
even though it was invented by Thomas Armat and C. Francis Jenkins.
Edison was slow to develop a projection
system (the Vitascope was a film projection system) at this time, since
the single-user Kinetoscopes were very profitable. However, films projected
for large audiences could generate more profits since less machines were
needed in proportion to the number of viewers. Thus, others sought to develop
their own projection systems.
One inventor who led the way was
Woodville Latham who, with his sons, created the Eidoloscope projector
which was presented publicly in April 1895. Dickson apparently advised
the Lathams on their machine, offering technical knowledge, a situation
which led to Dickson leaving Edison's employment on April 2, 1895.
Dickson formed the American Mutoscope
Company in December of 1895 with partners Herman Casler, Henry Norton Marvin
and Elias Koopman. The company, which eventually came to be known as the
American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, soon became a major competitor
to the Edison Company.
During the same period, C. Francis
Jenkins and Thomas Armat developed a motion picture projection device which
they called the Phantoscope. It was publicly demonstrated in Atlanta in
September 1895 at the Cotton States Exposition. Soon after, the two parted
ways, with each claiming sole credit for the invention.
Armat showed the Phantoscope to Raff
and Gammon, owners of the Kinetoscope Company, who recognized its potential
to secure profits in the face of declining kinetoscope business. They negotiated
with Armat to purchase rights to the Phantoscope and approached Edison
for his approval. The Edison Manufacturing Company agreed to manufacture
the machine and to produce films for it, but on the condition it be advertised
as a new Edison invention named the Vitascope.
The Vitascope's first theatrical
exhibition was on April 23, 1896, at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in New
York City. Other competitors soon displayed their own projection systems
in American theaters, including the re-engineered Eidoloscope, which copied
Vitascope innovations; the Lumière Cinématographe, which
had already debuted in Europe in 1895; Birt Acres' Kineopticon; and the
Biograph which was marketed by the American Mutoscope Company. The Vitascope,
along with many of the competing projectors, became a popular attraction
in variety and vaudeville theaters in major cities across the United States.
Motion pictures soon became starring attractions on the vaudeville bill.
Exhibitors could choose the films they wanted from the Edison inventory
and sequence them in whatever order they wished.
The Edison Company developed its
own projector known as the Projectoscope or Projecting Kinetoscope
in November 1896, and abandoned marketing the Vitascope.
Photo Library of Congress, Motion
Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division
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