The Edison Studios…Home Of The First Motion Pictures
In 1907, Edison had new facilities built on Decatur Avenue and Oliver Place in the Bronx and the photo below was taken there in 1908. This was the third studio Edison built. Its first production facility, Edison’s Black Maria studios in West Orange, New Jersey, was built in the winter of 1892–93. The second facility, a glass-enclosed rooftop studio built at 41 East 21st Street in Manhattan’s entertainment district, opened in 1901.
Edison Studios was the original American motion picture production company owned by the Edison Company of inventor Thomas Edison. The studio made close to 1,200 films as the Edison Manufacturing Company (1894–1911) and Thomas A. Edison, Inc. (1911–1918) until the studio’s closing in 1918. Of that number, 54 were feature length, the remainder were shorts.
The first commercially exhibited motion pictures in the United States were from Edison, and premiered at a Kinetoscope parlor in New York City on April 14, 1894. The program consisted of ten short films, each less than a minute long, of athletes, dancers, and other performers. After competitors began exhibiting films on screens, Edison introduced its own Projecting Kinetoscope in late 1896.
The earliest productions were brief “actualities” showing everything from acrobats to parades to fire calls. But competition from French and British story films in the early 1900s rapidly changed the market. By 1904, 85% of Edison’s sales were from story films.
Some of the studio’s notable productions include The Kiss (1896), The Great Train Robbery (1903), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1910), the first Frankenstein film in 1910, the first ever serial made in 1912 titled What Happened to Mary, and The Land Beyond the Sunset (1912). The company also produced a number of short “Kinetophone” sound films in 1913–1914 using a sophisticated acoustical recording system capable of picking up sound from 30 feet away. The studio also released a number of Raoul Barré cartoon films in 1915.
In December 1908, Edison led the formation of the Motion Picture Patents Company in an attempt to control the industry and shut out smaller producers. The “Edison Trust,” as it was nicknamed, was made up of Edison, Biograph, Essanay Studios, Kalem Company, George Kleine Productions, Lubin Studios, Georges Méliès, Pathé, Selig Studios, and Vitagraph Studios, and dominated distribution through the General Film Company. The Motion Picture Patents Co. and the General Film Co. were found guilty of antitrust violation in October 1915, and were dissolved.
The breakup of the Trust by federal courts under monopoly laws, and the loss of European markets during World War I, hurt Edison financially. Edison sold its film business, including the Bronx studio, on March 30, 1918 to the Lincoln & Parker Film Company of Massachusetts.