Even before the turn of the century, vaudeville theatres were the main venue for film projections in Austria-Hungary, and travelling shows remained popular until 1910. Because there were so few films, the main programme needed to have variety, and the shows also had to move around rapidly to different places.
After the Lumière brothers had presented the cinematographic technology for the first time commercially on 28 December 1895 on Boulevard des Capucines in Paris, there were shows the following February in London, Bordeaux and Brussels. The ‘living photographs’ were presented in Vienna on 20 March 1896.
Even before the cinematograph conquered the world, showmen presented colourful and spectacular pictures to the public. Attracted by the fascinating moving pictures, audiences immersed themselves in this new sensory experience and forerunner of the visual cinema.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, popular political parties began to form in the German-speaking part of the Monarchy: Social Democrats, Christian Socialists and German Nationalists. They gradually began to make their appearance in documentary films and newsreels in Austria-Hungary.
During the nineteenth century sport developed into an increasingly popular pastime, and sports became more professional at the same time. People invested increasingly in sports equipment. Whether as a leisure activity by the wealthy upper classes or a mass pursuit, the cinema captured all these sporting developments on camera.
Old photographs and early film recordings show that photographers and film-makers – whether professional or amateur – liked to record unusual events, such as a visit to the Prater, as a means of preserving the special and memorable moments, a day of carefree happiness that can be relived for an instant.
In the nineteenth century people’s experience of the world had expanded, and the world itself was larger and also more accessible, thanks not only to the faster means of transport but also to the cinema.
Automobile drivers, members of the wealthy upper classes, were seen increasingly on the roads. While they drew admiration, the conquerors of the air were celebrated as true heroes. Film-makers were quickly on the scene to give the film-going public a taste of this new luxury mobile leisure.
Railways and steamships offered people greater mobility in the nineteenth century, boosted around 1900 by bicycles, automobiles and aeroplanes and also shown in films. Mobility became a visual experience.
New sources of energy and power-driven machinery changed industrial production and work. The industrial promotion film soon developed as a genre, drawing attention to technical progress in general and in detail. Many films were made during the war showing the efficiency of the industrial war effort in Austria-Hungary.