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The Kinora was an individual moving picture viewing device that was popular in England during the early 20th century.[1]

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Viewer and Reel.

The Kinora served as a home entertainment movie machine around 1912. Only one or a couple people could view the moving pictures which led to it being a device used mostly in the home and not on a larger scale. The fact that the Kinora was intended for private use led to it being able to survive the early years of cinema for two decades. The Kinora was invented in 1897 by the Lumiere Company in France. The Lumiere Company was more concerned with the development of their camera/projector in 1895, therefore relatively ignoring their Kinora invention (Dead). As a result, widespread adoption of the Kinora occurred in 1908 with the British Kinora Company’s reintroduction of the product.


The Kinora was ideal for home use thanks to the work of the Kinora Ltd. Company that remodeled the Lumiere brothers’ original invention. Kinora Ltd. distributed reels printed from professional films allowing people to rent or buy them for in home viewing. There were over 600 different reels available (Dead). The company also appealed to individuality by allowing consumers to have a photographic studio in London take moving pictures of them that they could then view on their Kinora. Starting in 1908, Kinora Ltd. came out with an amateur camera that allowed people to make their own Kinora movies on 25.4 mm unperforated paper negatives or celluloid rolls that were processed and printed and turned into reels by the company (NCSSM).


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Interior of Kinora.

A viewer rotates the handle that is connected to a 14 cm diameter wheel. The wheel contains a set of small pictures that are each seen individually in front of a lens. If the wheel is turned at the right speed the combination of pictures give the illusion of motion. Each reel usually holds about 25 seconds of motion.

The Kinora home viewer came in numerous different styles. However, all of these styles were based off of the flip book idea where individual pictures flip over against a static peg (Science). The reels were based off of cinema films. Home movies were also introduced through a camera that could be used by consumers.

Most see the Kinora as an extremely simple machine that produces results near that of a miniature television screen (Dead). The concepts and mechanics of the machine are relatively easily understood and could be produced for the masses. There was no limit of technological skill level as to who could use it.

Similar Machines

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Mutoscope Patent.

The Kinora is similar to the stereoscope in theory as an individual viewing machine in the home. The Kinora’s collectable reels are similar to the stereoscope’s printed images. The Kinora was even advertised as “similar in size to a small table stereoscope, yet presents to the eye photographic views of objects in motion in a manner so life-like as to border upon the marvelous” (Motion).

During same time period as the Kinora, several other moving picture viewing machines were also in use. The mutoscope was invented in 1894 by Herman Casler. Casler describes the mutoscope in his patent as a “device for showing the changing positions of a body or bodies in action” (Patent). The mutoscope was a machine similar to the Kinora. However, it was usually used as a viewing vending machine. Patrons would typically pay 5 cents to view an image in the mutoscope viewer that was located in public places. The machine was therefore open to the masses for viewing. The kinetoscope was a complicated machine that used film to portray a moving image.


Middle classes originally saw attendance of the cinema as socially unacceptable. The Kinora provided them with moving pictures at home so that they did not have to go to the theatre. They reduced the chances of mixing with the lower classes. Perhaps, the Kinora only allowed for greater social stratification.

The mutoscope was seen by the upper classes as morally evil and a means of corrupting the youth. They believed that the mutoscope was a peep machine that portrayed improper images. The mutoscope suffered the same scorn of every individually consumed media. The novel was even seen as a source of literary pornography that would corrupt young girls. The internet today is also viewed as a network of pornography and corruption because it is consumed by an individual and not a group. Even though the mutoscope was seen as a source of moral evils, the Kinora did not seem to be viewed in the same way. However, it seems that the private home cameras available to Kinora users would only encourage the production of illicit material. The Kinora may have escaped defamation due to its association with the middle classes while the mutoscope was much more publicly available as a vended amusement.


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1908 Kinora Viewer.

Cinema essentially led to the demise of the Kinora. The Kinora Ltd. Company also experienced a fire in its London factory in 1914. The company was already seeing loss of interest in the Kinora and therefore decided not to rebuild its production facilities (NCSSM).

Some aspects of the Kinora that would have led to its demise include neck cramping from leaning over the machine to view the images. There really was no comfortable position that could be maintained while viewing the Kinora. There seems to be no evidence of any physical mark left on the forehead after viewing of the Kinora but one can only assume that there had to be some evidence of leaning over the machine impressed on the forehead. The reflection in the glass lens also seemed to impair the quality of the image.


The Kinora is now virtually obsolete requiring viewers to translate the images into newer formats for viewing. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews of England has inspired a preservation of a collection of Kinora footage of Harry Vardon a golfing legend of the early 1900s. The film is on 100 year old Kinora film that has never been seen before this restoration project (Restoration Project).

Some of the aspects of the Kinora have been maintained in modern media entertainment. Home video rental still remains a vital part of distribution in the film business. Video rental sees its roots in the availability of Kinora reels for lease. Personal hand held recording devices also saw their beginning with the Kinora. Hand held cameras are still used today to capture important aspects of our individual private lives. These hand held cameras also allowed for the development of amateur video recordings of significant events that would grow into its own industry of media entertainment.

Formal Prohibitions/Affordances

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Viewing Lens.

The middle class made up most of the audience of the Kinora as it was an in-home luxury entertainment piece that ranged from 5 to 16 English pounds depending on the model and how ornate it was. Anyone with enough money to afford time in the studio could produce their own material for the Kinora viewing. Mainstream reels however made up most of the content.

Pops and Hisses

The Kinora did not provide a clear unbroken moving image. It depicted quite the opposite. Each image was placed on a tiny individual plate that worked together as a flip book. Therefore there were breaks and flashes in vision during the presentation of the short movie. The splotches and breaks seen here in this demonstration of a mutoscope seem to resemble old films shot on film with the lines running through the image.[2] (55 seconds video starts) The color of these images are also key as they were black and white but seem to have taken on an orange tint. The tint could be a reflection of age and wear or it could have been part of the original intention of the creators. Another feature of the Kinora is the sound of the hitting and clanging of the individual pictures against the pin as the wheel is turned.


Anthony, Barry. The Kinora: Motion Pictures for the Home 1896-1914 : a History of the System. London: The Projection Box, 1996. Casler, Herman. “Mutoscope.” Google Patents. 21 Nov. 1894. Patent No. 549309.

Day, Michael. "Metadata for Images: Emerging Practice and Standards." UKOLN. 16 Mar. 1999. UK Office for Library and Information Networking. 5 Dec. 2007 <>.

Fullerton, John. Celebrating 1895: the Centenary of Cinema. Indiana: Indiana UP, 1998.

Gregory D Black. "A Victorian Film Enterprise: The History of the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1897-1915. Business History Review 75.3 (2001): 660-661. ABI/INFORM Global. ProQuest. NYU. 7 Dec. 2007.

"Kinora." NCSSM. 2005. NCSSM. 3 Dec. 2007 <>.

"Kinora." Science and Society Picture Library. 2004. Science and Society UK. 2 Dec. 2007 <>.

"Mutoscope Picture Machine." YouTube. 9 May 2007. 11 Dec. 2007 <>.

"Restoration project. " Televisual 12 Jan. 2005: 45. ABI/INFORM Trade & Industry. ProQuest. NYU. 3 Dec. 2007.