NOT world’s first movie theatre

The ‘world’s first’ stories have been shared online for years, they’re usually no more than just a picture with the claim that what it depicts is the first of it’s kind.
They rarely add any more information, even the most basic bit of background is left out and the questions from followers are ignored.
There are even social media accounts that post nothing but these claims, often not caring about if they are factual, only gathering as many followers and retweets as possible before they start posting sponsored messages or sell the account.
Don’t retweet or follow them.

This is one of those pictures, it claims to show the world’s first movie theatre.
It doesn’t.

This movie theatre was built in Pittsburgh and opened on June 19th, 1905, it was the world’s first Nickelodeon, a place where people could watch a moving picture for a nickel (5 cent coin) in a cinema set up by Thomas Edison.
In 1919 a reporter of ‘The Dispatch’ described this theatre as “First Exclusive Motion Picture House in All the World Stood on Smithfield Street”, which is probably where the misconception originated from.

The picture above doesn’t claim this is the first exclusive/dedicated cinema though, it claims it’s the first movie theatre in the world, ever.
We know that’s not true because long before there were buildings especially built or at least 100% dedicated to just showing movies such shows were organised in regular theatres, clubs, dancehalls, bars etc.

What the location for the very first movie show was and what thus would be the real first (be it temporary) movie theatre depends a bit on what we’d consider a movie show.
For now let’s agree on that it has to be an indoors projection of moving pictures to the public that the audience pays for, so not random indoor demonstrations.

On May 20th 1895 Eugene Augustin Lauste showed films of a boxing match to paying members of the public in a store on 156 lower Broadway in New York.

156 Broadway in 1914, via William Friese-Greene & Me

In July 1895 the Skladanowsky brothers had a moving picture demonstration at guest house Sello in Berlin, Germany and this building later became a full time cinema.
It’s not sure if the public had to pay but when the brothers had another show at the Wintergarten on November 1st 1895 we know for sure the public had to pay.

On December 28th 1895 there was a commercial public screening of films in the basement of the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris.

So for now I think we can call the temporary location for the one time film show by Mr. Lauste, a store on Broadway the first movie theatre as it showed a movie, it was indoor and people had to pay to get in.

But the Nickelodeon in the “world’s first” picture was also not the first dedicated movie theatre, with other words, a building JUST used to show movies, that wasn’t also still being used for vaudeville acts, music performances, etc.

The first permanent dedicated movie theatre was possibly the Vitascope Theatre ‘Edsonia Hall‘, built and managed by the Brothers Mitchell Mark and Moe Mark that opened on October 19, 1896 in Buffalo, USA.

All this doesn’t mean the Pittsburgh Nickelodeon wasn’t a big deal, it was.
It got everything right at the right time and place and became a huge success and while others were still having projections in buildings on their own, this new way of showing films soon conquered the US.
But it just wasn’t the first movie theatre nor was it the first dedicated movie theatre.
It was the first Nickelodeon.


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Picture(s) found online, used for (re-)educational purposes only.
I do not own the copyrights to these images, I only share them here for educational purposes to try and make sure the real story behind it becomes known and people will stop spreading false information.
If the copyright owner objects to the sharing here, kindly contact me and I shall alter the article.
If you’re interested in using any of the images here get in touch with the copyright owners mentioned in the article.
Feel free to contact me with questions.

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