International Conference Travelling Cinema in Europe (2007)

Luxembourg, 6 – 8 September 2007

Under the auspices of Luxembourg and Greater Region European Capital of Culture, 2007

Hosted by Cinémathèque Municipale de Luxembourg and Trier University,

Curated by Martin Loiperdinger in cooperation with KINtop

Before and during the emergence of permanent film venues, a variety of travelling enterprises offered film shows in different places of public entertainment all over Europe. The big ‘Picture Palaces’ of renowned showman families were among the main attractions of the fairgrounds before the First World War. Smaller companies performed their film shows in town-halls, music-halls, hotels and cafes, or gave even benefit shows in hospitals and asylums. Since film trade had established itself as a free international business from the beginning, and thanks to the well-developed European railway system, covering wide distances and crossing borders was not a problem for travelling cinemas at all. This was a prerequisite for travelling cinemas to become an important branch of European entertainment business between 1896 and the Great War, and thus prepared the ground for the success story of cinema as the new mass medium of the century.

In contrast to its formative potential and importance before the First World War, the phenomenon of the travelling cinema still is one of the dark areas in media history. In terms of archival material, nothing more seems to have survived than letters of application to city administrations, a few programme sheets, sometimes adverts and reports in the local press. Only recently has research on travelling cinema made an enormous step forward, in Britain, through the restoration and exploration of the Mitchell & Kenyon collection by the British Film Institute and the National Fairground Archive. It became clear that travelling cinemas played an important part in communicating the local, besides attracting audiences with fantastic films and views from abroad. Local films and other local and regional extravaganzas of the show (as lecturing in local vernacular etc.) have been crucial for box-office results.

Encouraged by this splendid research done in Britain, we would like to know much more on travelling cinemas and the culture of the travelling cinema in other European countries. Papers may focus on the regional or local aspects and the impact of travelling film shows, on the geographical range and transnational significance of itinerary ‘Picture Palaces’, on showman families who ran travelling enterprises, on film programming, on live performances, on business strategies etc.

The proceedings of the conference will be published, in English, in KINtop Schriften.