In 1895, the French stage magician Georges Méliès witnessed a demonstration by the motion picture pioneers, the Lumière brothers. The following year Méliès made his first film entitled Une partie de cartes (English title: Playing Cards). In 1897 he founded his own film studio in Montreuil, a suburb of Paris where he applied his stagecraft to developing various visual effects.
These effects were particularly evident in Méliès' most famous film, Le Voyage dans la lune (English title: A Trip to the Moon), which he made in May 1902, loosely on two novels: From the Earth to the Moon (1865) written by Jules Verne and H. G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon (1901). As well as writing the screenplay, Méliès also produced, directed the movie as well as appearing in the role of Professor Barbenfouillis.
Le Voyage dans la lune was released in France on 1st September 1902. Méliès hoped to recoup the astronomical 10,000 francs he spent making the film by releasing it in the United States. Unfortunately for him, within weeks of its French release unofficial copies of his work were being shown in the US and as a result he didn't make a penny in the States. In contrast, Thomas Edison made a fortune from the movie having bribed a London theatre open to give him a copy of the film from which the copies were made.
In 1913 the major French and American studios finally drove Méliès' film company out of business. He had directed 531 films, many of which were lost during the First World War, when the French military requisitioned the celluloid to melt it down to be made into boot heels. Following his bankruptcy, he sold toys at the Montparnasse railway station in Paris before the Cinema Society granted him a house in Château d'Orly in 1832, six years before his death.
Le Voyage dans la lune with English narration