Competing Projectors

Some of the machines for projecting motion pictures that came on the market in the late 1890s were commercially successful. At a relatively light 70 pounds, Edward Amet’s magniscope (left) was portable and, as such, a favorite among the itinerant showmen who traveled to small cities and towns, especially in the Midwest. By 1897, the projector had sold so well that Amet set up his own production operations in Waukegan, Illinois. Charles Urban, who had toured the Midwest selling the Edison vitascope, called his projector the bioscope (right). It was really a modified version of the cinématographe that the Lumière brothers had introduced in France in 1895. When Urban went to England to head up a film-production company called the Warwick Trading Co. (and, later, the Charles Urban Trading Co.), he took the bioscope with him and began marketing it in Europe (see Biographical Sketch 5.2). He also developed close business ties with the American company Biograph, which shared with Urban the technology for an improved shutter in 1903. Outfitted with the new device, the bioscope returned to America as Biograph’s 35mm projector and played a key role in the U.S. firm’s competition with Edison for supremacy in the American market.

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