R E Y N A U D ' S    T H E A T R E   O P T I Q U E


An agreement was made with the Musée Grévin in Paris to present the Pantomimes Lumineuses, with special music by Gaston Paulin, and stunning poster artwork by Jules Chéret.

On 28 October 1892 there was a première - the first animated pictures shown publicly on a screen by means of long transparent bands of images.

Setting up the apparatus behind a translucent screen, Reynaud apparently gave most of the presentations himself, deftly manipulating the picture bands to and fro to extend the sequences, creating a twelve- or fifteen- minute performance from the 500 frames of Pauvre Pierrot, (right, and below left).

Two other early subjects were Clown et ses chiens (500 frames) and Un bon boc (700 frames). After a break during 1894, the Théatre Optique opened with new subjects, Un reveau coin de feu and Autour d'une cabine.  

In 1896 the clowns Footit and Chocolat performed a sketch, Guillaume Tell, for the Photo- scénographe cine camera, and the resulting images were cut up, hand-coloured, and mounted as horizontal bands for the Théatre Optique. Reynaud also filmed actor Galipaux in Le prémiere cigare (shown in 1897) on an improved camera. The following year conventional films, shown on a Demeny Chronophotographe, were mixed with the 'Pantomimes Lumineuses'.

Reynaud experimented unsuccessfully with an oscillating-mirror projector in an attempt to update his presentation technique, but the battle with the competition of the Cinématographe and its imitators, with their constantly changing programmes, was finally lost, and the last show took place on 28 February 1900.

Many thousands of visitors
to the Cabinet Fantastique
at the Musée Grévin
enjoyed Reynaud's
Luminous Shadows

L o i c  D e r r i e n

The images were painted on gelatine squares fastened between
leather bands, with holes in metal strips between the pictures
engaging in pins on the revolving wheel, so that each picture
was aligned with a facet of the mirror drum. This was the first
commercial use of the perforations that were to be so important
for successful cinematography. The figures were projected onto a
background from a separate magic lantern slide.


From 1903 to 1907 Reynaud worked on a device for viewing short stereoscopic sequences of movement, the Stéreo Cinéma, which resembled a double praxiniscope arranged vertically, but it was not viable. Before his death in January 1918, in a fit of depression, he smashed the Théatre Optique mechanism and threw all but two of his picture bands into the River Seine. Reproductions of the two bands Pauvre Pierrot and Autour d'une Cabine - are today still being shown, and represent the only surviving examples of his public screen motion picture work.

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