From the fairground to the picture palace: 1896–1913
in From silent screen to multi-screen
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This chapter charts the development of cinema exhibition in Britain, from the period of screening films in fairgrounds through to picture palaces. It first presents a discussion of the technological developments in the "pre-cinema" days starting with the Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope followed by other inventors in Europe and the USA including Robert Paul and the Skladanowsky brothers. The chapter then discusses early sites of public exhibition of moving pictures, the legitimate theatre and the music hall. The structuring of the film industry into the levels of producer, distributor and exhibitor took some fifteen years to emerge in Britain, while the division of labour characteristic of film production was largely absent. The chapter also highlights the screening of cinemas at the picture palaces, which emerged because the Cinematograph Act 1909 had resulted in the closure of many penny shows due to the introduction of licensing.

From silent screen to multi-screen

A history of cinema exhibition in Britain since 1896


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