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American Mutoscope and Biograph Company


The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company was founded in 1895, and the oldest motion pictures and entertainment company in America and in existance today. The company was originally called 'American Mutoscope Company' and was started by nickelodeon producer William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, an inventor at Thomas Edison’s laboratory who helped pioneer the technology of capturing moving images on film.  Dickson left Edison and joined with Herman Casler, Henry Marvin and Elias InKoopman to form the American Mutoscope Company, the first company entirely devoted to film production and the company was located at 841 Broadway, New York, and made films for the Mutoscope from its rooftop studio, utilizing the sun's light instead of articicial lighting. With the popularity, it became a rival to Edison’s Kinetoscope for individual “peep shows”, making the company Edison’s chief competitor in the nickelodeon market. In the summer of 1896 the Biograph projector was released, offering superior image quality with its 68mm film stock, compared to Edison’s 35mm Vitascope projector. The company soon became a leader in the film industry, with distribution and production subsidiaries around the world including the British Mutoscope Company. In 1899 it changed its name to the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, then moved its headquarters to 11 East 14th street. A patent case victory in March 1902 allowed Biograph and other producers and distributors to use the less expensive 35mm format without an Edison license. Biograph offered both formats to exhibitors until 1905, when it discontinued the larger format. Among Biograph’s other accomplishments were being the first producers to film the Pope at the Vatican; and the first company to shoot a movie in Hollywood: D.W. Griffith’s In Old California. Biograph also was the first major movie company to give complete creative control to a Black American, vaudevillian/comedian Bert Williams, who produced, directed and starred in the short comedies Fish, and Natural Born Gambler.  Director D.W. Griffith joined Biograph in 1908 and helped establish many of the conventions of narrative film as well as helped the company become a major commercial success. Many early movie stars were Biograph performers, including Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, Lillian Gish, and Robert Harron. Mack Sennett honed his craft as a director of comedies at Biograph. In January of 1910, D.W. Griffith, and Lee Dougherty with the rest of the Biograph acting company, traveled to Los Angeles. While the purpose of the trip was to shoot the film Ramona in authentic locations, it was also to determine the suitability of the West Coast as a place for a permanent studio. The group set up a small facility at Washington Street and Grand Avenue. After this, Griffith and his players decided to go a little further north to a small village they had heard about that was friendly, and had beautiful floral scenery. They decided to travel there, and fell in love with this little place. The place was Hollywood. Biograph then made the first film ever in Hollywood called In Old California, a Latino melodrama about the early days of Mexico-owned California. Griffith and the Biograph troup then filmed other short movies at various locations, then travelled back to New York. After the east coast film community heard about Hollywood, other film companies began to migrate there. Biograph’s little film launched Hollywood as the future movie capital of the world. Following this, Biograph sent a film crew to work on the coast each year until 1916. In December 1908, Biograph joined Edison in forming the Motion Picture Patents Company in an attempt to control the industry and shut out smaller producers.

Printed dictionaries and other books with definitions for American Mutoscope and Biograph Company

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Google previewThe New Historical Dictionary of the American Film Industry (2014)

by Anthony Slide

At that time, the company became the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company and by 1909 had shortened its name simply to the Biograph Company. In 1908, with ...

Google previewThe Encyclopedia of New York City (2010)

Second Edition by Kenneth T. Jackson, Lisa Keller, Nancy Flood

Many early film companies were short-lived; the three principal producers before 1906 were the Edison Manufacturing Company, the American Mutoscope Company (later renamed the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company), and the ...

Google previewMovies in American History: An Encyclopedia (2011)

An Encyclopedia by Philip C. DiMare

Dickson, for instance, helped found the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, which ultimately came to be called simply Biograph. Working with a 70mm film format, which provided audiences not ...

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