Below is a timeline for every significant event in the history of movies in the home (with more being added). It should be noted that this website uses the term, “Home Video,” in two different ways. Firstly, it uses it as an umbrella term for the viewing of movies in the home, physical or otherwise. Secondly, its also the label given to the era in time where movies are being released on physical video formats.
A device which used light and lenses to project images onto walls. These images were usually painted onto glass slides, which were then placed between the light source and lens. The first magic lantern is believed to have been invented by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens.
First animation device to give the illusion of motion. When the disk is quickly spun on a vertical handle, the person holding it could look through the slots and see an animated figure reflected onto a mirror.
Expanded on the phenakistoscope by placing each phase of motion onto the inside walls of a cylinder with slots, eliminating the need for a mirror mounted to a wall. The use of a cylinder was first suggested by Simon Stampfer, but was first demonstrated by William Horner in 1834.
Inventor Charles-Émile improved on the zoetrope by placing mirrors in the center of the cylinder, removing the need to view the animation through the slots. The person using the device would simply look into the cylinder from above to see the desired effect reflected onto the mirrors inside. A projected version is invented but never makes it to market.
Improves upon previous attempts to create a projecting Phenakistiscope. Invented by Eadweard Muybridge to project animated plants and animals from painted glass disks.
May 9th, 1893
Edison gives the first public demonstration of the Kinetoscope at the Brooklyn Institute for Arts and Sciences. It is a “pay per view” device which uses a peephole and a strip of backlit 35mm film.
Projecting version of the Kinetoscope which used 35mm film, intended for “small auditorium” use. Some advertisements market the device for home use. Edison continued to advertise the machine until 1912.
A 17.5mm portable camera and projector in one intended for amateurs. Developed by Birt Acres.
The Kinora was a hand cranked tabletop viewer sold to the home market. Instead of film, it flipped through a spool of photographic cards, much like a flipbook or a mutoscope. Originally invented by the Lumiere brothers in 1895, they sold their patent to Gaumont, who first released the device with 100 different reels in 1900.
November 21st, 1910 (Westminster Gazette, 1911/01/16, p. 12)
The first non-combustible film stock, also known as safety film, becomes available to the public. It is from the company, Boroid LTD, out of London. It uses acetate as a film base rather than the more common and highly flammable nitrate base. Although Eastman Kodak and Pathe had already developed their versions of safety film, it had been rejected by the industry for being too brittle. Theirs will be reintroduce two years later for use with home projectors.
A French 28mm home projector which used safety (non-combustible) film. Developed by Pathé-Frères, it’s first patented in 1911, sold to the public in 1912. Printed films are made available for rent or purchase through catalogs.
March 27th, 1912 (New York Times, 1912/03/28, p. 11)
The first American projector made for the home market is demonstrated by Edison. It uses a 22mm film stock. Printed films are made available for purchase through authorized outlets.
William Beech Cook establishes Pathescope Company of America to sell surplus Pathe KOK projectors and printed 28mm films (called Pathescopes) in the U.S.
Unable to receive further stock of the Kok projector due to the first World War, Pathescope Company of America redesigned the French projector into the “New Premier Pathescope.”
First patented in 1907 and finally manufactured in 1921 by Charles Urban, the device spun a 10.5” film disc either by hand crank or an electric motor, which then produced a moving image viewable through an attached eyepiece. It is the first motion picture home media on a disc.
A line of amateur 9.5mm cameras and projectors. The 9.5mm film format became a popular printed film format in Europe.
Kodak launched their 16 mm format and their first 16 mm projector, the Kodascope. The format is intended solely for non-theatrical and amateur use. Victor and Bell & Howell also their own 16 mm projectors the following year.
February 8th, 1928
Inventor John Logie Baird’s company, Baird Television Development Company of London, performed the first transatlantic television broadcast from London to New York. The distorted transmission was of a man and woman turning their heads.
Kodak launches 8mm film, intended for amateur use.
March 30th, 1933 (Los Angeles Evening Post-Record, 1933/03/25, p. 6)
The experimental station, W6XAO, airs The Crooked Circle (1932) to the few television owners in the Los Angeles Area. This is the very first time that a full-length movie is shown on television.