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1897: Melies Conjures Up a Studio

Having entered into the world of filmmaking with characteristic enthusiasm, it was only natural that Georges Melies, one of the most innovative of the pioneers, should be the first to build a film studio in Europe.   Melies had the studio constructed in the garden of his home on the corner of the boulevard de l’Hotel de Ville and rue Francois Demergue at Montreuil-sous-Bois to ensure that he could continue filming during periods of bad weather and poor light.

The north-south facing studio, designed by Melies himself, was 17 metres long by seven metres wide, and stood at a height of six metres.   Inside, there was a small stage of five metres depth with a trap door for special effects, and the rest of the studio was reserved for the camera and workshop.   The walls and roof were built entirely of glass, and all but the three panels in front of the set were frosted.   Melies also had tracing-cloth blinds made to soften the lighting if required.   Unfortunately, Melies' design skills were not as advanced as his filmmaking talents, and it was necessary for modifications to be made at an additional cost of 90,000 francs.   Now, with a studio in which to operate, Melies was able to paint sets onto canvas flats and set to work filming ‘reconstructions’ of real events – such as the skirmishes in the war between Turkey and Greece, and would move on to film scenes from literary and stage works, as well as his famous trick films.

Within weeks, Melies was screening his ‘home movies’ at his theatre, Robert-Houdin, which was now converted exclusively to the screening of movies, at a price of 50 cents per ticket for each 45 minute presentation.[ADD]

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France: 1897



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