Cristina Degli-Esposti Reinert
As early as October 1895 Filoteo Alberini introduced at the Florence Prefettura his own invention. He called it Kinetografo Alberini. In 1892 the German brothers Max and Emil Sladanowsky had already produced "live pictures," but the Lumière brothers, who could count on an already established industrial structure, preceded them in presenting their invention to the general public. Alberini, like the Sladanowsky brothers, was still in the pioneering phase, but his efforts helped establish viewing rooms in Florence and Rome, and subsequently in major Italian cities.
At this stage, films still constituted mere fair spectacle and pure wonder.1 It was not until 1905 that Alberini and Dante Santoni developed a production company in Rome, the Primo Stabilimento Italiano di Manufattura di Pellicole per Cinematografi; the company changed its name the following year to Cines and produced La presa di Roma (The Fall of Rome), a fifteen- minute-long short shot by Alberini himself. This first experiment started a long series of historical films. From its outset, the Italian film industry presented a polycentric development that first touched Turin, Rome, Milan, and Naples and then spread to smaller enterprises in other centers, for example, Genoa, Venice, Pisa, and Palermo. Although the second group of enterprises had a short life, it testifies to the fact that the interest in producing films touched Italy throughout.
Among the first investors of the early Italian film industry were nobles and wealthy people, who did not necessarily see the cinema as a medium of social and cultural development but as a form of investment. The industry appeared as an unsophisticated family-run enterprise, then it tried to emulate the characteristics of the other European film industries. Substantial developments occurred between 1904 and 1908, when the first great production companies started to operate, for example, Ambrosio in Turin and Cines in Rome. In 1907 Itala Film was founded in Turin by Giovanni Pastrone and remained in existence until 1919, when it became part of the Unione Cinema