This Day in History – February 1st, 1893

Black_MariaThe world’s first film production studio, the Black Maria, or the Kinetographic Theater, was completed on February 1st, 1893. It stood upon the grounds of Edison’s laboratories at West Orange, New Jersey, for the purpose of making film strips for the Kinetoscope. Construction began in December 1892 and was completed the following year at a cost of $637.67 (approx. $15,272.99). In early May 1893 at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, Edison conducted the world’s first public demonstration of films shot using the Kinetograph in the Black Maria, with a Kinetoscope viewer. The exhibited film showed three people pretending to be blacksmiths.

AnnabelleThe first films shot at the Black Maria, a tar-paper-covered, dark studio room with a retractable roof, included segments of magic shows, plays, vaudeville performances (with dancers and strongmen), acts from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, various boxing matches and cockfights, and scantily-clad women. Many of the early Edison moving images released after 1895, however, were non-fictional “actualities” filmed on location: views of ordinary slices of life — street scenes, the activities of police or firemen, or shots of a passing train.

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