One of the most interesting and little-known groups of films are those between 1896-1917. The earliest of these films was made by the French cameraman Kamill Serf during the coronation of Nicholas II in Moscow in 1896. He was sent to Russia by the Lumiere Brothers' company.
From 1904 to 1917 the highest position in the Russian film business was occupied by two French companies - Pate and Gaumont Beginning in 1907, Russian film businessmen took their place in the Russian market. Among the most important were - A. Khanzhonkov, who made a valuable contribution to the development of Russian newsreel and popular science films; and A. Drankov, who filmed L. N. Tolstoy and other well-known Russian writers and actors; and chronicled different sensational events.
In 1909 the Apollo Film Company was founded. The cameramen of this company (father and son Bulla) successfully competed with the cameramen of foreign companies. They show in their films the life of the royal family, sporting events; they also filmed and presented the topical film "Picturesque Russia".
In 1910 the first newsreel "World Mirror" arrived. It soon changed its name to "Pate-Journal'. In 1911 the newsreels "Gaumont Chronicle" and "Review of Russia" by A. Drankov began. In 1912 the newsreels "Pegasus Chronicle" by A. Khanzhonkov, "Express-Journal", "Distorting Mirror", etc., began.
At the beginning of World War I other newsreels appeared. Those of the beginning of the century capture military parades, holidays, reviews and drills of the Guards. Many are devoted to the Fleet. They document everyday life of the Baltic Sea and Black Sea squadrons. Some of the newsreels document the fire of the Maliy Theatre in Moscow, mass gymnastics, auto and motor races, zoos and animal preserves, and the life of peoples of the Russian Empire. The objects of filming were political and cultural figures, the construction of warships, the Moscow flood, the testing of new agricultural equipment and the oil industry in Baku. There are also films showing the towns of Russia, etc.
There were special court cameramen and photographers who captured the small details of life in the Royal family. The Company of von Gun filmed the Tsar, and with the permission of the Ministry of the Court, showed these films in movie theatres beginning in 1907. Before the February 1917 Revolution, the von Gun Company was the main provider of the Tsar's chronicles in the Russian film industry. After 1907 other filmmakers were permitted to film the Royal family, including A. Drankov, V. Bulla (the elder), Khanzhonkov Company, Pate Company, and others.