Discovery Guides Areas


Moving Pictures:
The History of Early Cinema

(Released July 2011)

  by Brian Manley  


Key Citations





Actuality: Term coined to describe the earliest films created based on their presentation of actual events; short precursors to the documentary film.

Celluloid: The name of a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor and other dyes and agents; considered to be the first thermoplastic. They began to be used as the base for photographic film in 1889.

Emulsion: A mixture of two un-blendable liquids, one made of a dispersed phase and one of a continuous phase; used for the photo-sensitive side of photographic film.

Magic lantern: An early type of image projector developed in the 17th century; ancestor to the projector.

Newsreels: Form of short documentary films presented in the first half of the 20th century. They were a source of news and documentation of current affairs at the time.

Nickelodeon theater: Multi-purposed theaters that became popular from about 1900 to 1914; the precursor to the movie theater.

Splicing: Physically joining together two lengths of film.

Superimpose: Placement of an image on top of another image.