Like most people, I had always thought that the silver screen referred to the fact that the movies were in black and white when in actuality the expression originated with the projection screen used at the time, the silver lenticular screen. The term was so widely used that the name stuck and became a common figure of speech in the film industry.
The very first motion pictures were simply a series of photographs taken in rapid succession. You can see this in The Race Horse by the English photographer Eadweard J. Muybridge done in 1878, shown here:
The following 1:06 minute film is believed to be the oldest surviving film. It is a garden scene shot by the French inventor Louis de Prince in Oakwood Grange in Roundhay, Leeds, in the north of England in 1888.
The film industry, such as it is, started in 1895 with the silent film which lasted until about 1936. These movies had no recorded sound. dialogue was mimed and they were accompanied by either a pianist, a theater organist. or an orchestra.
Movies with sound tracks, or talkies as they were called in the day, began in 1927, the first of which was the film The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson.
Although it was possible to film in color since the 1930`s , the process was so expensive and cumbersome and the colors so unrealistic that the process was limited to historical and musical films until the 1950`s, therefore, the switch from black and white was gradual until the 1960`s .