I cannot let September 2008 pass without noting a modest centenary, which is that of the original Bioscope. On 18 September 1908 The Bioscope, the British film trade journal was first published, having its roots in two earlier magazines, The Amusement World and The Novelty News. It continued as a weekly until 4 May 1932. For most of that period it was published by Ganes Ltd, and edited by John Cabourn. It took its name from what was then a common term for the new venues for exhibiting motion pictures (i.e. cinemas), but which was also known as a type of film projector and a term for fairground film shows. It was a redolent and versatile term, describing both its subject it the widest terms and its own view on the world.
The Bioscope reported on British and world film production and exhibition, reporting the latest news and studio gossip, reviewing films, reporting on technology, interviewing leading figures in the industry, and keeping a sharp eye on the business side of film. For the film historian, it is one of the key primary sources for the study of silent film – certainly in Britain, and with much of great value for film from other nations as well. It was a major source for Rachael Low’s The History of the British Film series, and has been cited in countless studies since, not least on account of the British Film Institute’s library having a complete run.
In recognition of this Bioscope’s honourable forebear, I am going to start up a new series, at least once a month reproducing texts from The Bioscope of 100 years ago. Whether this Bioscope will last another twenty-four years seems unlikely (how long will blogs last?), but we’ll trace how The Bioscope reported on the rise of the cinema business from 1908 for as long as it does.