Cinema in Context


Cinema Context demonstrates that the heart of film culture is the screening. Without audience members, cinemas and distributors, a film does not exist; only during a screening does it come to life. The context in which a film is shown will provide a better insight into local film culture.

Cinema Context consists of four data collections that inform us about the fundamentals of film culture: films, cinemas, people and companies. Networks and patterns in film culture may be analysed on the basis of this data. Cinema Context offers pure information, while it avoids images. The occasional poster has been included in the data, but they cannot be searched for specifically.

Cinema Context contains records of all cinemas that have existed in the Netherlands since 1900. You can find information about the management, the building’s history or the architect. And if a travelling cinema passed through your hometown a hundred years ago, Cinema Context usually can tell you more about it.

Cinema Context holds data on nearly all films that were shown in Dutch cinemas before 1960. Considerable effort has taken to identify the original titles, though this has not always been possible, particularly not in the years before 1913. In cases where this identification proved impossible, only the Dutch title has been noted. In all other cases, Cinema Context provides both the original title and the Dutch title that was used to announce the film at the time. The translated title is in some cases radically different from the original title. Cinema Context is therefore an important tool for the identification of films in contemporary sources. Cinema Context can often also tell you who released the film in the Netherlands and where it was shown. This screening history reveals more about Dutch film culture than the individual films do. The year behind the title always refers to that particular film’s world premiere (generally known as the year of production). For Dutch films, the year in which the film was first rated has usually been adopted. It is our intention to include the films that have been shown in the Netherlands after 1960 as well.

Cinema Context contains a wealth of information on film screenings from 1896 to 1940 in various cities in the Netherlands, mostly from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Groningen and Limburg. Each week’s film programme has been included, as far as this is documented in the sources we have consulted. If musicians, bandmasters, lecturers and live performers participated in the programme of a movie theatre, you will find their names in Cinema Context as well. In the Programmes collection, you can also access data on entry fees and cinema orchestras (see that section’s Help page for further information). The collection will be expanded continuously. Travelling cinemas can often be traced from 1896 through 1910, even outside the aforementioned cities. A complete listing of all programmes, however, would be impossible, as the available evidence is incomplete. Some cinemas advertised very rarely, or not at all, while other cinemas published their programme on a weekly basis. The latter group is therefore better represented in our data. Cinema Context allows researchers to analyse and evaluate the degree to which the information is representative themselves.

Cinema Context also holds a great deal of information about individuals and companies. If you want to know who was the general manager of the Rembrandt Theater in Utrecht in 1934, then you will find that information in an instant. Distributors have also been listed wherever possible, so you can find who released a particular film.

Cinema Context offers access to the files of the Netherlands Board of Film Censors between 1928 and 1960. Every single second of film had to be approved during that period before it was allowed to be shown. Cinema Context makes this information accessible online, with the exception of the data about short foreign films. Not only is it possible to search in the 29.000 files, but thanks to Cinema Context we can now analyse this mass of information as a consistent data set. Apart from the national board of film censors, there was also a Catholic ratings board that operated locally. If a film was prohibited by this local ratings board in the 1930s, this is indicated along with the film’s rating.

Cinema Context is an addition to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), not a replacement. This website is not meant to be used to search for film actors, actresses or directors. For this reason, Cinema Context provides a link to each film’s IMDb-page along with the other data. If better links become available in future, we will add them as well. Nor does Cinema Context provide an overview of all films ever made, or information about contemporary film programmes in cinemas. This information is available from other sources on the Internet.

Cinema Context is both an online encyclopaedia and a research tool for the history of Dutch film culture. Not only can you find information here about who, what, where and when: you can also analyse this information and study patterns and networks. Thanks to Cinema Context, we are now able to expose the DNA of Dutch film culture. The instrument’s development was financed by the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Cinema Context provides the basic data, but researchers will have to shape it into a final product themselves. International comparative research projects would seem like a feasible goal for future work, but this would depend on agreements about mutual coordination. This website forms the beginning of what will hopefully be a fruitful collaboration with other countries. The prospects have made us optimistic about the future.

Cinema Context always identifies its sources. You can usually see at a glance from where the information is derived. In some cases a general note will suffice. For the censorship files, the source is always the Nationaal Archief in The Hague. For the cinemas and their owners, the information from 1925 onwards is usually derived from the name and address lists of the Bioscoopbond (association of film exhibitors and distributors) and its successors. Information about film showings ideally includes a mention of the newspaper in which the programme can be found. For showings by travelling cinemas, the information often comes from later publications, which are identified wherever possible.

Cinema Context has been compiled with great care. Researchers are free to access all information. They may select, download and use all data in their analyses. Researchers are of course advised to double-check all information for completeness and correctness. They carry full responsibility for the results of their own research. The data from Cinema Context may not be used for commercial purposes. To obtain permission for commercial use, one must contact the Library of the Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Cinema Context is never complete and can always be further improved. Corrections and additions are welcomed. If you find any errors in the data, please send the editors an e-mail.