“Actualities” were short films of everyday life, particularly street scenes and mundane activities, generally made between 1888 and 1910. Thinking in terms of what people living during this...
The term "actuality" was coined by the Lumiere brothers, who created the first "actualities" in France. These films dated from the very beginning of cinema of any kind; people were interested in them at first because they represented an entirely new form of entertainment, whose very existence was not only a novelty, but scientifically mysterious to most. As such, there was great interest in seeing them, despite the fact that there was no plot content. People had no expectation of plot content because they had no frame of reference suggesting that plot was a necessary feature of this entirely new kind of entertainment; rather, the very fact of being in a theatre watching celluloid being projected onto a screen had its own entertainment value.
Apart from this, though, there was a certain interest value to be derived from watching films of everyday things. The early actualities represented such things as military and official royal events, music hall entertainment, and everyday scenes featuring animals. The "cat video" phenomenon of our own modern day internet has been debated by many, from scientists to economists: why are we so interested in watching other people's cats? Even today, with our multiple sources of video entertainment, we continue to watch cat videos. Little surprise, then, that there are multiple actuality films from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries which show cats and dogs.
While the novelty value of these films was probably the initial driving factor in people's interest in them, there is always an ongoing interest in "the everyday," because being able to see things of general, everyday interest from further afield has a human appeal. The "actuality" films enabled people in rural areas to see what was going on in the big cities, and to keep up to date with news at a time when there was not a regular televised news broadcast as a matter of daily regularity. They offered a point of connection between the viewer and places they might otherwise have never experienced.