They were discovered, with copies of other Lumiere films, at a former sanatorium in Hauteville. Most are already catalogued, but two, Bad Weather at Sea and Children with their Cat and Dog, are new to cinema historians. The reels, each 17 metres long, and presumed to have been shot between 1895 and 1905, are being restored by the French national film institute.
Cinema historians are divided on the importance of the find. "The two films are extremely valuable," said Nathalie Morena, in charge of the Lumiere collection at the national film institute. "It is very rare to discover Lumiere works These were not distributed at the time and their existence was completely unknown."
Another Lumiere expert, Jean-Christophe Ienne, said the new films were unlikely to be "the find of the century". They were short and were unlikely to reveal anything new about the brothers' methods.
How did the movies come to be in the attic? Louis Lumiere was on the board of administration of the sanatorium, the first in France to open its doors to impoverished patients. It is thought that he gave the hospital copies of his films to amuse the patients. The films came to light last year when the building was being renovated.
Films from the turn of the century would normally have a life of about 80 years, unless maintained in special conditions. It is hoped that the Lumiere finds can be restored to the point where they can be copied and viewed.
Auguste and Louis Lumiere gave the first public, paid-for cinema show in Europe at the Grand Cafe in Paris in December 1895. Thirty-five people paid one franc each to see 11 films each lasting two minutes.
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