"Cinématographe perfectionné..." The Joly-Normandin Device
“The authentic Cinématographe perfectionné. System Joly patented S.G.D.G. Be suspicious of worthless imitations, because the good price is just an illusion. One can get rich with a good apparatus. One can be ruined with a bad one. The CINEMATOGRAPHE System Joly, is the only one with a warranty, and which doesn’t damage the films. Its functioning is irreproachable, without any vibration or flickering. Ready for immediate delivery. Certified by customers. Original views. The apparatus allows shooting films. We are at customers’ disposal to develop the films for them. Contact M. Normandin, engineer-manufacturer-electrician. 9 rue Soufflot Paris. Special fares for stallholders.” (L’Industriel forain, no. 372, 20-26 September 1896)
The “Cinématographe Joly-Normandin” (patented in March 1896 by Henri Joly, and marketed by Ernest Normandin) offered some special characteristics, which were also commented upon in contemporary publications, like a better quality of projection thanks to a bigger image (5 perforations per image), thus being recommended for projections in big theatres.
These characteristics seem to have convinced a number of exhibitors in France, as well as abroad. In Paris, the photographer Eugène Pirou acquired a cinematograph which he would then present as the “Cinématographe E. Pirou” or “Cinématographe Pirou-Normandin”, and already from October 1896 he started screening films at the Café de la Paix and then at the Maison Doisteau in Paris. The “Cinématographe Pirou” would also be presented in Ghent, Belgium, in November 1896, and at the Casino in Nice (from late December 1896 until April 1897).
The Cinématographe Joly-Normandin was used inside and outside Europe: in Switzerland (autumn 1896), by Georg Furkel in Germany (from November 1896) and the Netherlands, and in New York at the Eden Musée (from late February 1897). Presented as the “Animatographo” by João Anacleto Rodrigues in Madeira, the Azores, and the Canary Islands (from May 1897), or as “Prof. Jolly’s Cinematographe” at the Star Theatre of Varieties in Dublin (January-February 1897) and the Empire Theatre in London (from July 1897). On 23 November 1897 there was a special screening at Windsor Castle, to celebrate Prince Henry of Battenberg’s birthday. In South Africa, the circus owner Frank Fillis organized screenings in Cape Town (early 1898). In Spain the collector Antonino Sagarmínaga hosted private screenings from October 1897.
Unfortunately for Henri Joly and Ernest Normandin, their cinematograph was the one used the day when the terrible fire at the Bazar de la Charité occurred in Paris, on 4 May 1897 (when more than 100 people, mostly of the French nobility, died), the operator having improperly manipulated the oxygen-ether lighting system. Even if it was acknowledged that the cinematograph was not at the origin of the fire, it seems nevertheless to have made life difficult for their apparatus (its name was even changed).
The scarcity of the catalogue was something that was also commented upon by users. The special characteristics of the Joly-Normandin cinematograph – the 5 perforations per frame – meant that exhibitors using their apparatus needed to buy new films exclusively from the firm, and not from other producers. No catalogue of films made with the Joly-Normandin system seems to have survived, but we can with some certainty state that (at least) a hundred films were made with this system (an important part of them being produced by Pirou), and it seems that most of these were indeed shot before the Bazar de la Charité disaster. An ad published by Normandin offers lab services for its users, and it seems that the collections discovered in Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland include films which were shot by the local exhibitors in the respective country, which could have been sent to Paris. – Camille Blot-Wellens
El cinematógrafo Joly-Normandin (1896-1897). Dos colecciones: João Anacleto Rodrigues y Antonino Sagarmínaga, Madrid: Filmoteca Española – Ministerio de Cultura (2014)