Add a Comment to this Note (list members only)
Dead medium: the Kinora
From: (Stephen Herbert)
Source(s): "The Kinora = motion pictures in the home 1896- 1914" by Barry Anthony (The Projection Box, 1996). This

inexpensive booklet contains a listing of some 300 kinora

reels (60 frame enlargements), illustrations of the various

viewers, and a history of the Kinora system.

E-mail for details of how to

obtain a copy.

The Kinora was a miniature mutoscope ("flip-book"

principle viewer) intended for home use. While the Lumiere

brothers were working flat out developing their

Cinematographe camera/projector in 1895, they were also

developing the Kinora. They had no way of knowing that

they were "inventing" cinema (a bunch of people in a dark

hall watching films projected on a screen), only that they

were creating a moving picture machine. This technology

could have taken off in a number of directions in terms of

exhibition: (in arcades, or in the home).

So the Lumiere brothers 'hedged their bets' with the

Kinora home mutoscope viewing machine, patented in Feb

1896. The Kinora was a development of an idea already

patented by Casler (of American Mutoscope & Biograph fame)

in America.

As it happened, their 'cinema' projections were very

successful, and they didn't bother with the Kinora. A few

years later they passed on the idea to Gaumont, who

marketed it in France around 1900, with approximately 100

reels available (subjects by Lumiere and others).

Around 1902, versions of the viewer were launched in

Britain and it eventually became successful; over a dozen

different models of the viewer were made, and something

like 600 different reels were available. The apparatus was

cheap, easy to use, and non-flammable. A studio was set up

to take private motion portraits in London, and eventually

home movie cameras (using unperforated paper negatives)

were sold.

The Kinora allowed the middle classes to see motion

pictures at home, before it was socially acceptable to visit

the cinema. In 1914, the factory burnt down and the system died.

The number of surviving machines and reels indicate

the popularity of the Kinora in Europe for around 15 years

before World War One, and yet there is no public

consciousness of this medium at all.

Viewing a reel in one of these machines is

extraordinary = the mechanism is so simple it is almost

non-existent, and yet the result is the same as

watching an ordinary movie or miniature TV.

Stephen Herbert (