The first American public screenings of motion pictures took place in vaudeville houses. The first Edison productions were screened at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in April 1896; the Lumière films shown at Keith's Union Square Theatre in July of the same year were followed by the American Biograph program at Hammerstein's Olympia Theatre in October 1896. All were part of a regular vaudeville bill, and audiences had not paid specifically to view the new novelty of the motion picture. In that sense, it might be argued that the first film presentations in the United States were non-theatrical.
Those first films consisted of waves breaking on the shore, the arrival of the mail train, a parade of soldiers, the Upper Rapids of Niagara, scenes at London's Hyde Park, and similar items. All could be classified as educational or informational in content and, yet again, were the first examples of non-theatrical filmmaking.
Their producers might argue that these films were nothing of the sort, being either experimental or commercial ventures. The one filmmaker who would disagree is Thomas Alva Edison, the man whose name is most closely associated (in name if not in deed) with the invention of the motion picture and the man who perceived film not as a commercial venture but as an educational tool. Many of Edison's views on education are considered eccentric at best; he saw no value in learning a dead language such as Latin or a worthless mathematical subject such as