Asta Nielsen - the International Film Star and the Emergence of the Star System 1911 to 1914

Funded by German Research Foundation (DFG), from 2013 to 2017, conducted in co-operation with Media Studies Department, University of Marburg.

Team: Friederike Grimm, Martin Loiperdinger, Christiane Wendler (Trier); N.N., Yvonne Zimmermann (Marburg).

This project takes Asta Nielsen, the first international film star of the feature film business emerging in the early 1910s, as an example to study the media transition from short film programs to feature film exhibition. Already in May 1911, a groundbreaking business model was contracted in Frankfurt that anticipated the international star system of the following decades, which included blind and block booking, exclusive exhibition rights, and the use of a film star as a branding strategy.

The main goal of the project is to retrieve the facts & figures of the marketing campaigns of the Asta Nielsen Series during the seasons 1911/12, 1912/13 and 1913/14. For that purpose, the project focuses on the home markets Germany and Austria-Hungary as well as on the foreign markets Great Britain and Australia.

The project will be conducted by the Media Studies Departments at the universities of Marburg and Trier. The research design and the methodological framework are conceptualized as a two-step procedure:
The first year is dedicated to collecting and interpreting adverts on the exhibition of the Asta Nielsen Series published in the local press of around 50 cities and towns in Germany and about 20 cities and towns in Austria-Hungary, Great Britain and Australia. These adverts cover the three cinema seasons that started on August 1st, 1911 and ended on July 31st (just before the outbreak of the First World War that interrupted Asta Nielsen’s career temporarily).

Building upon the material basis retrieved in the first year, the local cinema histories of 5 cities and towns from each of the 4 countries will be analyzed in the second year. The sample of cities and towns selected to examine the different local environments of the Asta Nielsen Series in regard to cinema programming and to other entertainment programs ranges from big cities, industrial towns, middle-range regional centers and university cities to small rural towns.

The third year is dedicated to the writing of two dissertations: one on the distribution and exhibition of the three Asta Nielsen Series in the home-markets of Germany and Austria-Hungary, and the other on the distribution and exhibition of the respective Series in the foreign markets of Great Britain and Australia. The sustainability of the project will be ensured through online access to data collected in the first year: All adverts from the trade press and the local press will be entered into the already existing Importing Asta Nielsen Database.


Importing Asta Nielsen Database


Martin Loiperdinger: Importing Asta Nielsen Database. Quellen zu globalem Vertrieb und lokalen Aufführungen des Filmstars Asta Nielsen in Branchenblättern und Tageszeitungen. In: Alexander Geimer, Carsten Heinze, Rainer Winter (eds): Die Herausforderungen des Films. Soziologische Antworten. Springer VS: Wiesbaden 2018, pp. 297-311.

Martin Loiperdinger: Asta Nielsen geht in Serie. Die Etablierung des Filmstars als internationaler Markenartikel zwischen 1911 und 1914. In: Filmblatt, vol. 21, no. 61/62, Spring 2017, pp. 3-23.