Jean Desmet

Date of birth
Date deceased


Jean Desmet was a cinema operator and a leading film distributor. He began in 1893 as a pottery vendor at carnivals and fairs. His father, an impoverished Dutch-Belgian trader, had just died, and as the eldest son, Jean brought in the family’s income together with his mother.

After his mother's death, he remained active as a carnival operator, initially with a Wheel of Fortune and a toboggan-slide.

In 1907, he exchanged the toboggan for a travelling cinema: The Imperial Bio Grand Cinematograph. With this luxury cinema, he followed in the footsteps of the exhibitors Alberts Frères, Alex Benner, and Hommerson et Fils, who presented exclusive film programs in luxurious cinema tents. Desmet even went so far as to open up his well-equipped caravan to visitors – in exchange for payment, of course, because above all, Desmet was a merchant.

In April 1909, Desmet opened his first stationary cinema, the Cinema Parisien in Rotterdam. In early 1910, his film rental business became his most important activity. At West German film fairs, he bought complete film programs which he then rented out, including the posters, to Dutch cinema owners. Desmet also screened films in his own cinemas.

Together with a number of relatives, he operated cinemas in cities including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, and Bussum.


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