An award-winning and intricately detailed documentary on the genesis of early cinema, "Before the Nickelodeon" focuses on one of the craft's most ingenious pioneers, Edwin S. Porter. As narrator Blanche Sweet (one of D. W. Griffith's Biograph starlets) acknowledges, to study Porter's fortunes is to witness the emergence of the American cinema industry and "Before the Nickelodeon" charts Porter's illustrious career from telephone operator to projectionist and finally prestigious film director. Porter made over 100 films between 1901 and 1908. His work is often held up as a precursor to Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" in establishing the structure and codes of cinematic language and classic filmmaking (Griffith even makes a star appearance in Porter's "Rescued from an Eagle's Nest" featured here). "Before the Nickelodeon" includes clips and excerpts from the hugely popular and imaginative "Life of an American Fireman", "Jack and the Beanstalk" and Porter's finest "The Great Train Robbery".