While interviewing Thomas A. Edison in 1895, Blackton’s interest in films was so aroused that in the following year he and Albert E. Smith
established Vitagraph; in 1899 they were joined by William T. Rock. Their first film, The Burglar on the Roof (1897), was followed by a long
series of film successes that made Blackton a millionaire.
Multiple-reel films had appeared in the United States as early as 1907, when Adolph Zukor distributed Pathé’s three-reel Passion Play, but when
Vitagraph produced the five-reel The Life of Moses in 1909, the MPPC forced it to be released in serial fashion at the rate of one reel a week.