Early Cinema Today: The Art of Programming and Live Performance

Early Cinema Today: The Art of Programming and Live Performance

Early Cinema Today: The Art of Programming and Live Performance

Early Cinema Today: The Art of Programming and Live Performance


Invented in the 1890s and premiered in Paris by the Lumiere brothers, the cinematograph along with Louis Le Prince's single-lens camera projector are considered by film historians to be the precursors to modern-day motion picture devices. These early movies were often shown in town halls, on fairgrounds, and in theaters, requiring special showmanship skills to effectively work the equipment and entertain onlookers. Within the last decade, film archives and film festivals have unearthed this lost art and have featured outstanding examples of the culture of early cinema reconfigured for today's audiences.


Martin Loiperdinger


Early cinema and its media performance practices had already fallen into oblivion for more than six decades when the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) screened fiction films from 1900 to 1906 to film scholars and archivists at the now legendary Brighton conference in 1978. the first steps to be taken following this initiative, of course, were to examine and study the material itself, i.e. the artefacts from that early period which the film archives kept in unmarked tin cans. the next steps then were to do research on the production, distribution, exhibition and reception of those artefacts, i.e. to reconstruct different aspects of early cinema history. in this respect, the Nederlands Filmmuseum (NFM, now named eye – Film Institute Netherlands) became one of the leading archives because it had shown foresight in undertaking preservation and research efforts which afforded access to its rich collections from the first decades of the 20th century – mainly the Desmet collection – to the international research community. the two Amsterdam Workshops on Non-fiction from the 1910s (1994) and on Disorderly Order – Colours in Silent Film (1995), both curated by Daan Hertogs and Niko de Klerk, were eye-openers: the beautiful prints and their efficient programming were a surprise for everybody present who was not yet familiar with the marvellous collections of the Nederlands Filmmuseum.

In subsequent years, programming early cinema, for professional as well as for non-professional audiences, became an issue. Audiences also became an issue on various occasions. This first volume of KINtop – Studies in Early Cinema aims to provide first-hand insights given by the curators of some groundbreaking endeavours in arranging early cinema performances in Italy, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany and Luxemburg.

Starting in 2003, the regular retrospective 100 Years Ago at the Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna became the annual focus of early cinema presentation, showing about ten carefully composed programmes of the respective year’s film production of just a century ago. Owing to the outstanding sensitivity which Mariann Lewinsky has been devoting to the curation of this retrospective since 2004, Bologna is unquestionably the best place to represent the wide and lively range and colourful richness which early cinema programmes can . . .

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