Kodak started a revolution in the film world when it launched 16mm film in the consumer market. This inflammable acetate film opened up a world of possibilities for the amateur filmmaker.
New format catches on
Kodak was not the first, nor was it the only company who developed (an inflammable) smaller film for the amateur, as an alternative to the highly flammable 35mm nitrate film. More companies had alternative formats, such as the 17.5mm and 22mm, but these had never really caught on. Pathé Frères were successful for a few years with a 9.5mm version (Pathé baby), but in the end, this was no match against 16mm.
Kodak’s system had many points in its favour: the Cinekodak camera was compact and robust, the film could be loaded easily, film development was not expensive and the film was inflammable. The modern and very expensive ad campaign Kodak used to introduce 16mm in the market probably helped its success.
The Cinekodak camera was the start of a new hobby for millions of amateur moviemakers around the world. The 16mm format also became popular in the Netherlands, and Dick Laan was one of the first to use this film. The cine film was especially popular with travellers to the Dutch East Indies. H.J.A. Sanders and J.T. Sandberg were two of the many who recorded their lives there with the help of 16mm.
A trade magazine for the cine-filmer called Veerwerk appeared in 1932 and included contributions from Dick Laan and Johan Hunningher.
Essence of film
Kodak developed 16mm for the amateur moviemaker but, by the end of the 1920s, professional filmmakers began to move toward this smaller format as well. In the Netherlands, it started with the revaluation of the amateur filmmaker. Joris Ivens praised the cine-filmer because he couldn’t pull off fancy camera tricks with the simple equipment he used and thus demonstrated the essence of film.
In 1928, the film magazine Lichtbeeld called the amateur filmmaker the saviour of Dutch national cinema: the amateur was free to choose his subject matter, didn’t have to conform to the demands of a client or an audience’s taste, and could experiment with camera angles and editing techniques.
In the meantime, Kodak was improving image quality and made the filmstrip stronger. 16mm film became a serious alternative for 35mm. Already in 1929, the new Dutch film company Profilti made many of its commissioned films on 16mm. More and more documentary, commissioned and experimental filmmakers were moving towards using cine film.
Tragedy brings about a new standard
A tragic accident in 1934 accelerated the use of 16mm in the Netherlands. During a show in a mission house, a 35mm nitrate film caught fire and three young girls were killed. From that day on, it was discouraged to show nitrate film in clubhouses, community buildings and schools, and 16mm film became the standard.