From the end of the nineteenth century onwards, the technological innovation that, commercially exploited, completely transformed the non-working lives of ordinary urban youth was a device for the projection of moving images, an apparatus to resynthesize motion. British electrical engineer Robert W. Paul gave the first exhibition of his Theatrograph projector (an adaptation of ideas embodied in inventor Thomas Alva Edison’s coin-operated peepshow device, the Kinetoscope) to a scientific audience at Finsbury Technical College on 20 February 1896, but had considerable problems achieving any sort of adequate image on the screen. The first screening outside Paris of the Lumière brothers’ more famed Cinématographe was given on the same evening to the London press (admission charges were made the following day) hosted by entertainer and magician Félicien Trewey in the Great Hall of the Regent Street Polytechnic. It transferred on 9 March, as an attraction in the variety bill of the Empire Theatre, north of Leicester Square, where it ran to full houses. The race was now on to bring moving pictures to the general public. On 19 March, Paul’s Theatrograph opened at the Egyptian Hall, almost opposite the Royal Academy in Piccadilly, under the aegis of magician David Devant. Another screening of Paul’s invention, renamed as the Animatographe, ran at the Alhambra Music Hall in Leicester Square from 25 March 1896 and enjoyed a long residency.
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