Where was the First Cinema?

It depends what you mean by first? The Regent Street Cinema is in the original Polytechnic building. And it is true that the Lumiere shows, the early run of Lumiere shows in
February 1896 in London were done there. So if you regard the first Lumiere run as the first dawn of moving pictures in London, then yes you could say that. But then of course it depends what
you mean by cinema? I’m not being sort of clever about this, what do we mean by cinema? The music halls were really very quickly where the moving picture shows transferred to, they could accommodate a moving
picture show very easily in their bill of different kinds of acts. And between mid 1896 and 97, 98, the music halls were the main seated venues where you could go and see moving pictures and the program would get longer
and longer. So beginning in February, March, 10 short subjects. By August, September, Robert Paul is showing 20 subjects, in five different music halls. But none of those are cinemas, they’re
music halls. Cinemas per se don’t really begin until the early years of the next century and in America they were called
nickelodeons. In Britain they were often called
Penny gaffs, building on their previous little theatres that had existed in the
19th century. But a building that calls itself a cinema, or a Kinema, that doesn’t really appear until
about 1907. It is true that the Regent Street auditorium actually became a cinema. And it became, some of you may
remember even I remember it from my youth, The Cameo-Poly was in fact one of the art houses of
London. So it did run as a cinema for much
of its career, then it stopped being a
cinema and now it’s happily restored to
being a wonderful repertory cinema. But I think we have to be kind of
careful about what we call the first of anything, there are at least half a dozen
buildings around Britain they claim to be the
first cinema. And I take all of that with a pinch of salt, thank goodness they’ve survived, but who knows what was truly first.

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