How rare it is in history for a scientific genius to also possess considerable business acumen and the ability to direct a large body of men working under him. Thomas Edison possessed all of those gifts. With one of the sharper minds granted to a man, he had the inspiration to invent hundreds of devices. He directed eventually a large work force of employees, some of whom had intellects almost as sharp as his. Finally he could take his inventions and develop markets for them.
Edison thought of “moving pictures” as doing for the eye what his phonograph did for the ear. In February of 1888 Edison met with chrono-photographer Eadweard Muybridge who used what he called a zoopraxiscope to rapidly project painted images on a screen to give the illusion of music. They announced they would combine this technology with Edison’s phonograph. From the outset Edison envisioned “talkies”. Most of the actual work in producing the first movies was done by Edison’s employee W. K. L. Dickson, who had served as Edison’s official photographer.
Edison devised the idea of a kinetoscope, but it was Dickson who brought it to reality, producing “moving” images by running strips of film across a light source. Dickson invented the first practical celluloid film to serve as the medium upon which the photographs would be placed. The first films were displayed as “peep shows” in penny arcades, the movies often focusing on boxing matches and other athletic contests.
Dickson went on to produce the first film for a pope, and had his camera blessed by Leo XIII.
Edison Studios would make over 1200 films between 1894 and 1918. Love movies or hate them, Edison started the whole thing.