The Early Cinema: "Industrial Training"

The very first movies, developed in America by Thomas Edison, were intended as aids to industrial training. Viewers saw them by looking into a machine, the "kinetoscope," and turning a handle. A continuous loop of flexible film would pass across the shutter. Edison believed that all inventions should have some practical, money making application. He expected the movies would be most useful in industrial training, teaching workers to do repetitious factory jobs. The short clip here, for example, might theoretically be used in training new workers how to do their jobs.

Though he and his team fooled around with the first films they made, shooting scenes of kissing, sneezing, and prizefighting, it took Edison a surprisingly long time to figure out the moving pictures would be best as an entertainment medium. The kinetoscope never caught on with manufacturers. It flourished as a novelty in the 1890s, when it aquired a slightly risque or salacious edge.  


An Edison Kinetoscope

By 1900 a number of separate inventors had realized that projecting kinetoscope images on a screen would make the medium far more attractive

Still, movie makers had a hard time figuring out what the new medium was best suited for. Take a look at some of their efforts.