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Extra info for Jean Desmet and the Early Dutch Film Trade
He was the youngest son of the fairground operator Karel Benner, who had already toured with a cinema around the turn of the century. In 1901, Alex Benner opened a socalled Palais Lumineux or Crystal Palace of Light, which created a visual spectacle from coloured electric lighting. 18 From around 1904 his travelling cinema could be seen all over the Netherlands, and he clearly filled the number two spot after Alberts Frères. In 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1911, he even managed to grab the site at Den Bosch where Desmet had his operational base.
29 With the exception of the films from the Danish Nordisk company, Germany prohibited all imports of foreign films in the spring of 1916. Germany had important markets in neutral countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland: ‘Germany also exercised a considerable control over the neutral and occupied markets surrounding it. ’31 Since the beginnings of cinema in 1895, it had taken more than twenty years for the American domination of Dutch cinema screens to become a reality. With the exception of the period of German occupation during the Second World War, this position of domination has remained unchanged.
For a while, helter-skelters were an extremely popular fairground attraction. With their bulk and height, they towered above the rest of the fair, looking rather like church steeples or, more precisely, lighthouses. For Desmet’s helter-skelter was equipped with electric lighting, which stood out above the attractions below, illuminating the entire fairground. Desmet used a steam engine to generate the power required for his lights. In most Dutch towns of those years there was still no central public electricity supply.