During the first years of film there were two very different exhibition circuits in the Netherlands. In major cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam, exhibitions regularly took place in variety theatres, while in the rest of the country, travelling cinema showmen put on film shows at fairs. The film shows in variety theatres were part of what was known as ‘speciality shows’.
In between declaiming actors, couplet singers, wrestling Icelanders, performing sea lions and dancing acrobats, a short programme of films was shown, usually lasting about ten minutes. These films varied from current events and nature ‘impressions’ to travelogues from exotic countries and cities.
The film shows changed every two weeks, along with the rest of the specialty show programmes. For Amsterdam theatre directors like F.A. Nöggerath, sen. (Variété Flora) and Frits van Haarlem (Carré), this meant that new films needed to be on the programme every other week.
Because of a lack of infrastructure, theatre directors turned to film production companies for co-operation. They purchased the films directly from these companies, showed them in their programmes, and subsequently resold them to other (travelling) exhibitors. Nöggerath became The Warwick Trading Company’s representative for the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.
The Nederlandsche Biograaf- & Mutoscope Maatschappij – a subsidiary of the American and English Mutoscope Company – was responsible for the film shows which were held in Amsterdam’s Carré from 1898.
Like Amsterdam, Rotterdam also had a pair of large variety theatres: Circus Variété and Casino. The Circus Variété – with its director Carl Pfläging – and Casino purchased their films from F.A. Nöggerath, but Casino also showed films from the Mutoscope Maatschappij.