Cinema Context

What is the finest film reference source on the Web, for all film let alone silent film? With all due respect to the Internet Movie Database, I think it is Cinema Context, a Dutch site created by Karel Dibbets and the University of Amsterdam. Describing itself as “an encylopedia of film culture”, the site documents film distribution and exhibition in the Netherlands in 1896. It does so through four data collections, on films, cinemas, people and companies, derived from painstakingly researched data on nearly all films exhibited in Dutch cinemas before 1960. The research team located film programmes from 1896 onwards in each of the major Dutch cities, entering all film titles, names, dates, cinemas etc, and then ingeniously matched this data to the records of these films on the IMDb.

The result is an incomparably rich resource for tracing films, the performers and the producers across time and territories, opening up whole new areas of analysis. Cinema Context also contains comprehensive data from the files of the Netherlands Board of Film Censors 1928-1960. As the site states: “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.” Naturally, it is available in both Dutch and English.

This is the new film research. Every nation should have the same.

The London Project

The London Project is a major study of the film business in London, 1894-1914, organised by the AHRB Centre for British Film and Television Studies. The project ran 2004-05, but written outputs are in preparation and will be seen later this year; and there the main project output, a searchable database, which is available online. This documents nearly 1,000 cinemas and other film venues, and just as many film businesses located in London before the First World War. The researchers on the project were Simon Brown and Luke McKernan, with Professor Ian Christie of Birkbeck, University of London, overseeing the work.

The database is designed to attract not only early film specialists, but a general audience interested in London history. To this end there is a map of the boroughs of London, from which users can call up database results for the part of the city they are interested in. Because the database entries can be found through Google searches, it has generated quite a public response. The current web address is, though there is talk of this changing soon. As the person responsible for the cinema records, I have to say that Simon’s film business records are better.