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San Francisco Art Association on Pine Street
San Francisco Art Association on Pine Street
On May 4, 1880, at the San Francisco Art Association, Eadweard Muybridge demonstrated his Zoogyroscope—an illuminated magic lantern device that projected individual real-motion photos of horses in rapid succession onto a screen and produced moving pictures. In Chicago, it’s called a Zoopraxiscope.

Peter Bacigalupi's San Francisco Kinetoscope and phonograph parlor on Market Street
Peter Bacigalupi’s San Francisco Kinetoscope and phonograph parlor on Market Street
Courtesy of U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Edison National Historic Site
On August 24, 1891, Edison files a patent for the Kinetoscope developed by his employee W.K.L. Dickson. The Edison Company produces the first 25 Kinetoscopes in 1893-94. The machines are housed in wooden boxes with peepholes for viewing the first Edison short films—and fitted with coin slots. The commercial movie business in America is underway. The first Kinetoscope parlor opens in New York City at 1155 Broadway on April 14, 1894 with 10 of the machines. Chicago gets 10 in May. San Francisco gets 5 in June.

"I closed a deal at once for the five machines they had, paying $2500 for them. These were set up in a store in the Chronicle Building at Market and Kearny Streets, and people stood in line to see the pictures, paying a fee of 10 cents."

--PETER BACIGALUPI

In the first years of the 20th century, motion pictures escape the wooden, coin-operated boxes housing Kinetoscopes and are projected onto screens, as Eadweard Muybridge had shown them a quarter century before.

Glen Park Nickelodeon at 2786 Diamond Street, 1926
Glen Park Nickelodeon at 2786 Diamond Street, 1926
In 1904, Harry Davis opens a storefront movie house in Pittsburgh with a nickel admission and calls it the "Nickelodeon." "The million," a far more polite term than the "masses," have a new form of entertainment in venues created just for them. San Francisco's long tradition of elegant movie palaces is about to begin.

Pantages Theater, San Francisco
Pantages Theater, San Francisco
Image courtesy of Ink Mendelsohn
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