As the Cannes Film Festival comes to a close, a more than century-old precursor to cinema's 'talkies', the Chronomegaphone, will soon be available in France to the highest bidder.
The device, an essential element in the birth of sound films, was Invented by Frenchman Leon Gaumont in 1902. Only 50 Chronomegaphones were manufactured and shipped around the world. Similar to the classic gramophone, it uses compressed air to amplify sound for large spaces.
"It's not only the most sophisticated device among those conserved in public and private collections, but it is one that remained completely preserved with all of its (film) accessories, big and small: trunks and their contents, posters, as well as 14 'Phonoscenes', half of them with discs, and a dozen silent films," said Aymeric Rouillac, a fine art auctioneer.
Purchased in 1912 for 8,330 francs (the equivalent of two million euros or $2.2 million today), this Chronomegaphone is valued at more than one million euros by the auctioneer who will put it up for sale on June 7 at the Chateau d'Artigny near the city of Tours in central France.
Comprised of four trunks weighing in at around 450 kilos (992 pounds), the Chronomegaphone has remained in the family of its original buyer Charles Proust, who had ambitions to take it to Mexico to play "photoscenes".
Proust's first turn in Latin America proved faulty when he forgot to factor in the different electrical current in Mexico. His projection of the French song "La legende du roi Gambrinus" lasted under three minutes.