First Films – Lumieres’ Take
The Lumiere brothers premiered their shows in Paris. For the first screening only 35 people turned up. Apart from the first two films that we had discussed earlier, another important film worth discussing is the Le Repas De Babe (Baby’s Breakfast, 1895). Most of the Lumieres’ films were nothing but home movies. Here too in the Baby’s breakfast it was Auguste Lumiere who starred with his wife and baby. We might now think what might have possibly interested the audience in viewing a mundane scene of an eating baby.
The film shows the baby sitting in her garden with father Auguste and her mom, having the breakfast. It was not the people in the film actually fascinated the viewers but it was the moving foliage dancing to the tunes of the wind, in the back drop, that gathered the audience’s attention. The audience till then had seen only the painted scenery in the theatre for which alone their eyes were accustomed. While they happened to see the animated leaves in the film they were thrilled. It was the source of fascination in that film.
In one of the films showing the friends playing a card game Antoine Lumiere starred with his friends. Though we hail the Lumiere Brothers as one of the pioneers of the cinema, their take upon films were rather different. The brothers were so skeptic about films. They never believed that they would last more than 6 months or at most a year. They thought that this initial amusement among the people, for films, would die down slowly. They were unaware of what they had started, actually.
They opened in Great Britain in 1896, initially in the Regent Street and later moved to Empire Theatre. By that time the Theatre mainly showcased musicals, and Lumiere’s cinematographe, initially, just managed to fill in as one of the items in the bill. Yet, soon they became popular. There were many imitations of their works that were going around in Europe and in US, but there was nothing that they could do about it. Copyrights never even existed then.
The audience poured thousands a day. Most of them belonged to the working class. The upper class elites didn’t turn up to the cinema shows initially, for they considered going to films was less prestigious. If they went to films, there was an awkward reality to be confronted. It was mixing with the lower class, together under one roof, which they did not prefer. Rather they opted to drama in theatres, for the theatre enjoyed the status as the art of the intellectual, then.
Reeling back a few centuries earlier in history, we could notice a similar scenario in the Shakespearean era, for the theatre itself. It was Shakespeare, who is now hailed as the father of modern theatre, revived the theatre. Initially the aristocrats didn’t turn up for it. It was partly due to the religious bias and partly due to the unwillingness of the rich to erase the social differences. Hence the working class became the first audience for Shakespeare and they did embrace him. Now in case of films, what happened was nothing but history repeating itself.