Beginnings

A permanent film theater was opened in Prague in 1907 by the conjuror Ponrepo and regular film production began in 1910. By the beginning of World War I, over a third of the cinemas in Austria-Hungary were based in the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia. Lucernafilm was established in Prague in 1915 by Vayclav Havel, grandfather of the future president Vaclav Havel; while other companies, including Weteb, Excelsior, Praga, and Poja, followed at the end of the war. Czech cinema's first international success was Karel Degl's Stavitel chramu (The Builder of the Cathedral, 1919) while the first Slovak feature, Jaroslav Siakel's janosik, was made in 1921 with US financing.

The first important studio was founded by the American and Biografia company (the A-B Company) in 1921, and the actor-director Karel Lamae established the Kavalirka studios in 1926, where some of the most important films were made before 1929, when they were destroyed by fire. Despite strong competition from the

German and US cinemas, feature production in the silent period averaged over twenty-six (Czech) features and was marked by both artistic and commercial success. Lamac directed a successful adaptation of Jaroslav Hasek's comic anti-war novel Dobry vojak Svejk (The Good Soldier Svejk) in 1926, which was followed by three silent sequels: Svejk na fronte (Svejk at the Front, 1926), directed by Lamac, Svejk v ruskem zajeti (Svejk in Russian Captivity, 1926), directed by Svatopluk Innemann; and Svejk v civilu (Svejk in Civilian Life, 1927), directed by Gustav Machaty. In partnership with his then-wife Anny Ondra (1902-1987), who appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's The Manxman and Blackmail (both 1929), Lamacc formed a successful team that achieved international success in the French, Austrian, and German cinema, although they transferred their production base to Berlin in 1930.

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