On December 28, 1895, exactly 125 years ago, the Lumière brothers held the first public film showing at the Grand Café de Paris.
On this day in 1895, in the Salon Indien of the Grand Café de Paris, near the Paris Opera, the handcranked Lumière Cinématographe, invented by the Lumière brothers, Louis and Auguste, played the very first moving pictures in front of an audience.
The screening program comprised ten short films. The most well-known is "Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory." All the films had been shot by the Lumière brothers and were no more than 40 seconds long.
The new technology was an instant hit
In the book "Histoire du cinématographe de ses origines à nos jours," published in 1925, Georges Michel-Coissac relates this event with several anecdotes from by the son of the event's organizer, Clément Maurice.
Maurice was a portrait photographer who had worked in the Lumière factory in Lyon, and later worked in the Parisian studio of the Lumière brothers' father, Antoine Lumière.
Antoine Lumière and Clément Maurice agreed to organize the screenings between Christmas and New Year. They put up two posters on the door of the Grand Café, sent out invitations and decided to charge one franc (around five euros today) per showing.
Michel-Coissac explains that at the time, Mr Volpini, owner of the Grand Café, leased them his basement for a year, refusing to accept the 20% of the proceeds as he had such little confidence in the success of the enterprise.
However, the Cinématographe screening was so successful that three weeks after the premiere, between 2000 and 2500 tickets were sold every day, all without any newspaper advertising.
The room could only fit 120 people at a time; a crowd would gather in front of the café to be able to attend one of the showings, each of which lasted about twenty minutes. Some spectators even came back with acquaintances they had met on the boulevard.