One of the things that we are most famous for here in New Jersey, is the fact that our state is the home of the first motion picture.

In 1893, the world saw the completion of the first film production studio ever, known as the Black Maria or the Cinematographic Theater.

This groundbreaking studio was located on the grounds of Edison's laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey, now recognized as the Thomas Edison National Historical Park.

The primary aim was to create film strips for the Kinetoscope. Construction began in December 1892 and finished up the following year, with a total cost of just $637.67 (which would be around $21,624 in today's dollars).

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The studio was unique, featuring a tar-paper-covered dark room with a retractable roof, making it ideal for filming. In early May 1893, Edison introduced the world’s first public screening of films shot using the Kinetograph in the Black Maria.

This took place at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, where a Kinetoscope viewer showcased a film of three people acting as blacksmiths. It was a momentous occasion, marking the birth of motion pictures.

Come join the team at Thomas Edison National Historical Park (NHP) on Saturday, April 20, at 10:30 a.m. for the exciting grand re-opening of the Black Maria, a replica of the world's first-ever motion picture studio.

The park is situated at 211 Main Street in West Orange, NJ. For the past two years, a National Park Service (NPS) preservation crew has been hard at work restoring the Black Maria to its former glory.


Supported by the Great American Outdoors Act, work included fixing the floor, windows, and doors, updating the exterior sheathing, adding electrical improvements, and installing a ramp for universal access.

The original Black Maria, built in boasted unique features such as a pivot for rotating the building around a circular track and a roof that could be raised and lowered to maximize sunlight exposure for filming.

Pretty amazing stuff for the 19th century, no?

The studio earned its nickname, the "Black Maria," because it bore a resemblance to the prison wagons of the time, which were known by the same name.

Edison's team of motion picture experimenters produced between 200 and 300 films. Their creations included the first recorded sneeze, the first kiss, and the first dance captured on film.

Over time, the Black Maria was eventually retired and taken apart in 1903. In 1954, the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation built a replica of the Black Maria to pay homage to Edison's impact on the world of motion pictures.

And now, you’ve got the chance to see it all over again.

LOOK: Which movies were filmed in New Jersey?

Stacker compiled a list of movies filmed in New Jersey using data from Movie Locations, with additional information about each film collected from IMDb.

Gallery Credit: Stacker

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Gallery Credit: Rob Carroll

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco only.

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