Charles Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat created the Vitascope, an early film projector, in 1895. They demonstrated the Vitascope at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta, they called it the Phantoscope. Armat and Jenkins fought over the rights to the invention and eventually Armat, with legal authority, sold the rights to the Kinetoscope Company.

The company eventually approached Thomas Edison to finance the manufacture of their machine before it was outdated. He agreed on the term that he be credited with the invention and it be renamed the Vitascope.

Since Edison was slow to develop beyond the single-user Kinetoscopes others sought to develop a projection system that could be viewed by large audiences thus enlarging profits. Woodville Latham created the Eidoloscope which was presented publicly in April 1895. The American Mutoscope Company was founded in 1895 and eventually became a major competitor for the Edison Company.

The Vitascope premiered on April 23, 1896 and soon, along with competitors, motion pictures were showing around the country in major cities. Later the Edison Company developed the Projectoscope and abandoned the Vitascope.