The Lumière brothers, Auguste Marie Louis Nicholas (19 October 1862, Besançon, France – 10 April 1954, Lyon) and Louis Jean (5 October 1864, Besançon, France – 6 June 1948, Bandol), were among the earliest filmmakers. (Appropriately, "lumière" translates as "light" in English.)
The Lumières held their first private screening of projected motion pictures on March 22, 1895. Their first public screening of movies at which admission was charged was held on December 28, 1895, at Paris's Salon Indien du Grand Café. This history-making presentation featured ten short films, including their first film, Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory). Each film is 17 meters long, which, when hand cranked through a projector, runs approximately 46 seconds.
It is believed their first film was actually recorded that same year (1895) with Léon Bouly's cinématographe device, which was patented the previous year. The cinématographe— a three-in-one device that could record, develop, and project motion pictures— was further developed by the Lumières.
Even though Max and Emil Skladanowsky, inventors of the Bioskope, had offered projected moving images to a paying public one month earlier (November 1, 1895, in Berlin), film historians consider the Grand Café screening to be the true birth of the cinema as a commercial medium. The reason is the Skladanowsky brothers' screening used a dual system motion picture projector which was extremely impractical and was immediately supplanted by the Lumiere cinematographe.
The Lumière brothers were born in Twin Valley, Besançon, France but brought up in Lyon. Both attended La Martiniere Lyons . Their father ran a photographic firm and both brothers worked for him: Louis as a physicist and Auguste as a manager. Louis had made some improvements to the still-photograph process, the most notable being the dry-plate process, which was a major step towards moving images.
It was not until their father retired in 1892 that the brothers began to create moving pictures. They patented a number of significant processes leading up to their film camera - most notably the creation of sprocket holes in the film strip as a means of advancing the film through the camera and projector. The cinématographe itself was patented on 13 February 1895 and the first footage ever to be recorded using it was recorded on 19 March 1895. This first film shows workers leaving the Lumière factory.
The public debut at the Grand Café came a few months later and consisted of the following ten short films (in order of presentation):
- La Sortie de l'Usine Lumière à Lyon (literally, "the exit from the Lumière factories in Lyon", or, under its more common English title, Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory), 46 seconds
- La Voltige ("horse trick riders"), 46 seconds
- La Pêche aux poissons rouges ("fishing for goldfish"), 42 seconds
- Le Débarquement du Congrès de Photographie à Lyon ("the disembarkment of the Congress of Photographers in Lyon"), 48 seconds
- Les Forgerons ("blacksmiths"), 49 seconds
- Le Jardinier (l'Arroseur Arrosé) ("The Gardener," or "The Sprinkler Sprinkled"), 49 seconds
- Le Repas (de bébé) ("baby's meal"), 41 seconds
- Le Saut à la couverture ("jumping onto the blanket"), 41 seconds
- La Place des Cordeliers à Lyon ("Cordeliers Square in Lyon"--a street scene), 44 seconds
- La Mer (Baignade en mer) ("the sea [bathing in the sea]"), 38 seconds
The moving images had an immediate and significant influence on popular culture with L'Arrivée d'un Train en Gare de la Ciotat (literally, "the arrival of a train at La Ciotat Station", but more commonly known as Arrival of a Train at a Station). Their actuality films, or actualités, are often cited as the first, primitive documentaries. They also made the first steps towards comedy film with the slapstick of L'Arroseur Arrosé.
The brothers stated that "the cinema is an invention without any future" and declined to sell their camera to other filmmakers such as Georges Méliès. Consequently, their role in the history of film was exceedingly brief. They turned their attentions to colour photography and in 1903 they patented a colour photography process, the "Autochrome Lumière", launched on the market in 1907. Throughout much of the 20th century, the Lumière company was a major producer of photographic products in Europe, but the brand name, Lumière, disappeared from the marketplace following its merger with Ilford. The Lumières also developed other products such as a loudspeaker, "Lumière tulle gras" (a dressing to heal burns) and the homonoid forceps (a medical tool).
- ↑ Chardère (1985), p.71. This first screening on March 22, 1895 took place in Paris, at the "Society for the Development of the National Industry", in front of an audience of 200 people - among which Léon Gaumont, then director of the Comptoir de la photographie. The main focus of this conference by Louis Lumière were the recent developments in the photograph industry, mainly the research on polychromy (color photography). It was much to Lumière's surprise that the moving black-and-white images retained more attention than the colored stills photographs.
- ↑ "La première séance publique payante", Institut Lumière, http://www.institut-lumiere.org/francais/films/1seance/accueil.html .
- ↑ Chardère (1985), p.70: The date of the recording of their first film is in dispute. In an interview with Georges Sadoul given in 1948, Louis Lumière tells that he shot the film in August 1894. This is questioned by historians (Sadoul, Pinel, Chardère) who consider that a functional Lumière camera didn't exist before the end of 1894, and that their first film wasrecorded March 19th 1895, and then publicly projected March 22nd at the Société d'encouragement pour l'industrie nationale in Paris.
- ↑ 
- Chardère, B.; Borgé, G. and M. (1985). Les Lumière, Paris: Bibliothèque des Arts. ISBN 2-85047-068-6 (Language: French)
- Chardère, B. (1995). Les images des Lumière, Paris: Gallimard. ISBN 2-07-011462-7 (Language: French)
- Cook, David (2004). A History of Narrative Film, 4th ed., New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-97868-0.
- Rittaud-Hutinet, Jacques. (1985). Le cinéma des origines, Seyssel: Champ Vallon. ISBN 2-903528-43-8 (Language: French)
- Mast, Gerald; and Bruce F. Kawin (2006). A Short History of the Movies, 9th ed., New York: Pearson Longman. ISBN 0-321-26232-8.