FIRST STAGES: TRADE, TECHNIQUE, PICTURES
DURING the past half-century American movies have become a major industry, a new art growing out of science and the older arts, and a powerful social agency peculiar to modern times. Born in the laboratory, organized as a medium of expression, exploited for the entertainment of the masses, the motion picture has developed through the co-operation of scientist, artist, and business man. Each has contributed to the rise of the film, shaping its character and strengthening its effectiveness.
The years 1896-1903 saw the genesis of the movie. At first a minor commercial commodity, the motion picture groped toward a larger future--a broad business base, a technique of its own, and a mass audience. By 1903 it had achieved in some measure all these aims.
It was on April 23, 1896, that the moving picture as we know it today was seen for the first time in America. On the following day The New York Times1 described its première at Koster and Bial's Music Hall (now the site of R. H. Macy & Company) in New York:
When the hall was darkened last night, a buzzing and roaring were heard in the turret and an unusually bright light fell upon the screen. Then came into view two precious blonde young persons of the variety stage, in pink and blue dresses, doing the umbrella dance with commendable celerity. Their motions were all clearly defined. When they vanished, a view of the angry surf breaking on a sandy beach near a stone pier amazed the spectators. . . . A burlesque boxing match between a tall, thin comedian and a short, fat