- 9½ -

9.5mm - A forgotten narrow film format

In 1922, Pathé in Paris first introduced a small film format designed for home use: 9.5mm security film. A package was offered, entitled Le Cinéma chez soi (The Home Cinema), which included the small Pathé-Baby hand-cranked projector and an extensive selection of films to rent or buy. In 1923, the accompanying hand-cranked pocket-sized camera followed. This appearance marks the cornerstone of autonomous filmmaking - be it to capture the growing up of his children and everyday life or to use the moving image as a mouthpiece for his own messages as an artistic or documentary amateur. 

Heidi Fial Still Art Gallery 9.5mm Film Amateurfilm Archive
© Heidi Fial / 2022

PATHÉ BABY // The first home cinema

The year 1922. Under the title Le Cinéma chez soi (The cinema for the home), the Pathé brothers presented the first home cinema and a new film format in Paris in December 1922, called: Pathé Baby. 9.5mm security film was presented, an affordable, handy, narrow film format designed for home use.


The Pathé Baby package initially included a handy, portable projector and an extensive selection of films from the Pathé Cinemateque to rent or buy. You could choose between reports from all over the world, film shows, educational films, children's films, or short versions of full-length feature films. 

source from Heidi Fial private amateur film archive
source from Heidi Fial private amateur film archive


The year 1923. The demand for the possibility of capturing (“cranking up”) one's own memories on film grew rapidly, so that as early as 1923 the 9.5mm Pathé Baby camera was available. A hand-cranked camera, yet cheap and reliable, that literally fit in your pocket, that was dead easy to use and didn't require any prior technical knowledge. 

"It's good manners to be a crank" and "It's almost as easy as taking a picture..." are the convincing arguments that appear as advertisements in the rental and purchase films from the Pathé Cinematheque (in the opening credits or between the films) captured on film and projected by hand into the home cinema.

source from Heidi Fial private amateur film archive
source from Heidi Fial private amateur film archive

It was the beginning of an era of analogue amateur film, private films and home cinema that would last until the 1990s. 9.5mm film, however, didn't make it that far. As early as 1923, Kodak brought 16mm narrow film onto the market, which quickly became a new standard in the amateur film sector and from which 8mm film also developed. Today, 9.5mm film is a forgotten format. But the few films that have survived are priceless treasures, they are moving documents of everyday family life from a long-gone time.