WHEN THE FILM CAME TO DENMARK
The film first came to Denmark in the mid-1890s, when painter and manufacturer Lauritz Vilhelm Pacht (1843-1912), from June 7, 1896, presented "body-sized, moving pictures" at public performances in his Copenhagen Panorama in the square in front of Copenhagen then not yet completed new town hall. The same spring, Pacht had been on a tour of major European cities such as Berlin, Paris and London, and here he had had the opportunity to become acquainted with the invention of the new fashion: projected "living images". (Note 1)
"Kjøbenhavns Panorama" was housed in a wooden pavilion that lay in front of the City Hall's north-facing facade, ie on the side where the main entrance to the City Hall was located and a little west of it. The pavilion, designed by Thorvald Bindesbøll, had in 1893-94 functioned as an exhibition building for the Copenhagen artists' association "Den Frie Udstilling".
But in 1894, the building came to stand empty because Den Frie moved its exhibitions out into a newly built wooden building at Aborreparken north of the town hall. It was also a wooden building, which in this case was designed by the painter J. F. Willumsen. In 1914, this building was moved out and located south of the trench at Østerport Station. The abandoned building on Rådhuspladsen was rented in 1894 by Vilhelm Pacht, who initially showed slides, panoramas and dioramas, as well as "live images" on Edison's Kinetoscope or "Camera". It was all accompanied by music from Edison's Phonograph. (Note 2)
From an economic, business and audience point of view, the problem with Edison's Kinetoscope was that this technically only allowed a single spectator at a time to see "live images". It was therefore a real novelty when the enterprising Pacht in June 1896 was able to introduce "live images" that were projected onto a big screen so that quite a few spectators at a time could attend the performance. (Note 3)
However, as mentioned, Pacht was able to present the big news on June 7, 1896, when he had succeeded with some difficulty in acquiring a film projection apparatus. The device was of the model that the Englishman Birt Acres had patented under the name Kinopticon. Pacht had also managed to enter into an agreement with Acres for the ongoing delivery of his own 'feature film'. However, Pacht also showed films shot and produced by the professional Copenhagen photographer Peter Elfelt.
As early as 1896, however, Pacht and his Kinoptikon faced stiff competition from foreigners who came to Denmark to show films in the big cities, and perhaps especially in Copenhagen. The first to come here were two German brothers Max Skladanowsky (1863-1939) and Emil Skladanowsky, who presented their so-called cinema pictures at the Pantomime Theater in Tivoli. The first performance took place on June 11, 1896, just four days after the Pact's first film screening, and they managed to keep their program on the poster for an entire month. (Note 4)
The next foreigner who came to Copenhagen to show films was the Frenchman Charles Marcel, who on July 7-8, 1897 demonstrated his "cinematographer" in the Oddfellow Palace's concert hall in Bredgade. But he was criticized by the press for the poor quality of the films he screened. The program consisted mainly of American kinetoscope images from Edison's Studio, which were only intended to be shown in a so-called "Camera", but which Marcel projected onto a relatively large screen, which relentlessly revealed the film strips' probably innumerable scratches, stains and cracks. (Note 5)
The third foreigner who tried to break through by showing a film program in Copenhagen was a Mr. Swanson, who on April 1, 1897 screened films in the National Variety on the corner of Vesterbrogade and Axeltorv. The program included i.a. "Daring" films with bathing female beauties, which as a rule has always been a good attraction for the men's audience. However, the film program was simply considered a number among the variety's other numbers and it therefore did not attract much attention. (Note 6)
However, there was also a single Dane who in 1897 tried to start a kind of cinema operation. It was Carl Hasager 1855-1935) who showed films in a room in Købmagergade 65, but after a month he had to close due to declining audience interest. However, he had obviously not given up, because in 1898 he showed films in the establishment Sommerlyst on Frederiksberg Allé. (Note 7)
In 1898, Pacht and his Panorama & Kinoptikon on Rådhuspladsen were dismissed because the wooden pavilion was to be demolished, but the business continued into 1899. The foresighted Pacht had at that time been appointed director of "Panoptikon", which since 1885 had been located in The Panopticon building on Vesterbro's Passage, later Vesterbrogade. The place was well known to Pacht, for it was he and his staff who had performed the wax figures exhibited in the Panopticon. Here, around 1899-1900, he moved his Panorama & Kinoptikon, which he ran until his death in 1912. From July 1909, the place also became known as the Panoptikon Teatret, which came into existence well into the century. More precisely to 1925. (Note 8)
The Copenhagen varieties, however, had acquired a taste for incorporating a film program among their many other entertainment numbers. On 23 September 1898, director Peter Rasmussen of Cirkus Varieté, who was housed in the Circus building on the corner of Axeltorv and Jernbanegade, was able to present a Mr. Swanborough and its so-called "wargraph". The performance was arranged in such a way that the audience would perceive themselves as sitting in a train, from which one looked out at the panoramas that slipped past, and sensed when the train drove over bridges, through tunnels and mountain gorges with cascading rivers. The name "wargraph" came from the fact that the film program ended with current footage from the Spanish-American War. The following month, Mr. Swanborough's operator, A. James Gee (1878-1970), also showed current footage from the Anglo-Egyptian War, and later from the Boer War in South Africa. Mr. Gee then took over the wargraph and toured around Denmark and showed his film program in several places in the country.
In 1905, James Gee co-founded Ole Olsen's Biograf-Theatret in Vimmelskaftet, but later in the year he and Olsen disagreed. Gee left Copenhagen and traveled to Aalborg, where he soon after, on February 2, 1905, opened the city's first cinema "Citybiografen", which he owned until his death. However, films had been shown in Aalborg as early as around 1897 in Klubben Enighedens store Sal, but who was responsible for the film screening is not stated. (Note 9)
From 23 October 1898, "Arenateatrets Varieté", which was adjacent to Tivoli in the corner adjacent to the current H.C.Andersen's Boulevard and Tietgensgade, showed films on the so-called "Triograph". It was a cinema projector that could enlarge the image up to 30 feet, which in this case means the size of the proscenia, ie the stage opening. The premiere program consisted of oxygen trains, firefighting, the Niagara Falls, and finally another oxygen train that jogged through tunnels at breakneck speed. The most remarkable thing, however, was that Politiken's reviewer paid special attention to the accompanying music and sound effects, including “the bell ringing, shrill pipes and locomotive moans”, which was produced by Mr. Ulrich Andersen's good Orchestra ”. The same reviewer also mentions the many different names given to the film performances, and below he mentions that Peter Rasmussen in "Cirkus Varieté" calls his film performance "Biograph", a term used here for the first time in Denmark. (Note 10)
On October 29, 1898, there was a premiere in Vitagraphen, Concert du Boulevard, which, like the film performances in "Cirkus Varieté", was arranged as a train journey.
On November 1, 1898, a film performance began in the "Scala Varieté" on Vesterbrogade, which was shown on the so-called "cosmograph", which was designed by the German inventor Oscar Messter (1866-1944). Messter is particularly credited for the use of the mechanical device, the so-called Maltese cross, which ensures the necessary jerky advancement of the film strip during the passage between the light source of the display device and the lens. The Maltese cross has since been standard equipment on cinema machines. (Note 11)
On September 2, 1899, another cinema premiere took place in Copenhagen, namely in the amusement establishment "Panorama Hafnia", Amagertorv 6. In addition to dioramas and slides, films were also shown here, but already in 1900 it had to close with a large deficit for the place's leader, Heinrich Odewahn, of which nothing further is stated. (Note 12)
Around the autumn of 1901, a cinema called "Kjøbenhavns Kinoptikon" was opened in Copenhagen. It was located in Frederiksberggade 27, but its owner, the photographer Peter Elfelt (actually Peter Lars Petersen, 1866-1931), was out too early in relation to the Copenhagen audience, who after the interest in the news was satisfied, this first street cinema failed in so to a large extent that after six months it had to close with a large deficit of DKK 3,000 according to the economic scale of the time (Note 13)
But just as important is the fact that Peter Elfelt was the Dane who was the first to record films and (a single) feature film in Denmark. Already the same year that the film first came to Denmark, namely in 1896, Elfelt photographed and produced the first Danish documentaries. He also shot ballet films and commercials and was also the first to record a Danish feature film, The Execution (1902), which by the way differs from most other dramatic films from that time, as it was shot without the use of decorations. (Note 14)
Peter Elfelt was a trained photographer and in 1880 founded his own photography company on Købmagergade 64, on the corner of Kultorvet. He soon became a well-known portrait photographer in the city, and in addition he often photographed members of the royal family, which led to him being appointed Royal Court Photographer in 1900. In 1905 he moved his studio to Østergade 24, where he had his business until his death on February 18, 1931. The distinguished facade of his business and his and his successors' quality photographs in the shop windows, were until recently known by Copenhageners who moved on Strøget. (Note 15)
Elfelt's first film, i.a. the royal family on Bernstorff Slots Trappe 1899, was shown at Pacht in "Panorama" on Rådhuspladsen and in "Panorama Hafnia" on Amagertorv, and in 1901-02 also in Elfelt's own newly established cinema, "Kjøbenhavns Kinoptikon", on Frederiksberggade 27.
It is also particularly interesting in connection with Elfelt's first cinema, "Kjøbenhavns Kinoptikon", that in one of the films he had recorded and shown here, namely "Mrs. Anna Larssen in her Dressing Room", there was a film trick. This consisted of copying a scene that was normally recorded twice, first forwards and then backwards. In this case, it was a matter of the lady in question "in restless speed" undressing, garment by garment "up to the Limit of the Decent", as stated in a newspaper review. Then, to her great surprise, the audience saw that the lady was again hastily putting on the same pieces of clothing, but now in reverse order. It does not appear directly from the newspaper report whether Elfelt may have filmed the scene with a subverted camera, which means with slightly fewer pictures than the film would be performed in at the screening. Undercut camera means that the movements on the film become faster than in real life. This effect could often be seen when the old silent film farces, which were usually recorded at the then normal speed of about 18-20 bill./sec., Were performed at 24 bill./sec. (Note 16)
But film production was and remained, after all, only a sideline for Elfelt, who placed greater emphasis on his business as a royal court photographer, a highly valued portrait photographer for the bourgeoisie in particular and as a reportage photographer who captured images from everyday life in Copenhagen and the surrounding area.
Copenhagen got its first real and permanent cinema on 17 September 1904, when the film pioneer Constantin Philipsen (1859-1925) set up Kosmorama in Citypassagen on Østergade 26. The cinema had 150 seats and had performances every day from 14-21.30. Philipsen also opened a cinema on St. Thomas Allé, who, however, was not permanent. But already five months later, on April 23, 1905, "Kosmorama" got a competition from the Cinema Theater or as it was called from 1907: Copenhagen Cinema Theater. The cinema, which was located at Vimmelskaftet 47, was established by the former market joker Ole Andersen Olsen (1863-1943), with the previously mentioned AJ Gee and Niels Jacobsen called Niels Letort (1855-ca. 1924) as companions, and it had to start with 153 seats, which was the norm for the Danish and foreign cinemas of the time. But after a rebuild in 1906, it got 228 seats. (Note 17)
In the same year, 1905, several more or less permanent cinemas were opened both in Copenhagen and in the province. In the capital it was the following: Biorama (later "Triangel Teatret"), Nørrebro's Biografteater, Kosmografteatret and Thaumatografen. The latter was located at Frederiksborggade 22, where Lademann’s Forlag was housed many years later. In the province, it was Aalborg Cinema Theater and Kosmorama in Aarhus. In the following many years, a number of permanent cinemas were opened both in Copenhagen and in the province, so that the market towns had 2-3 permanent cinemas, while the small towns usually had to make do with a single permanent cinema.
On May 1, 1906, the film production company A/S Kinografen was founded, with address Frederiksberggade 25. The initiator was Peter Elfelt, who also got a seat on the board. The company also wanted to have its own cinema, but Elfelt's old grant only applied to the neighboring property, Frederiksberggade 27, where in 1901-02 he had run "Kjøbenhavns Kinoptikon", but with very little success. Now, however, the times were different and people had gotten used to going to the cinema, and therefore Elfelt applied for and received a license to run a cinema business in Frederiksberggade 25, where the production company A/S Kinografen also had an office. The cinema was naturally named "The Cinema". (Note 18)
In 1914, a cinema was opened in Copenhagen, which together with "Kinografen" was to become especially known for showing cartoons, more specifically Walt Disney's cartoons. This cinema was named Metropol Teatret, and was housed in Frederiksberggade 14, on the corner of Kattesundet. The two cinemas were thus in the same street, albeit on opposite sides of it, but less than a hundred meters apart. The cinemas "The Cinema" and "Metropol" began in 1934 to show a complete program of Disney cartoons. The cinematographer's management called its Disney short film program "The Cinographer's Cheerful Show", which was shown in March 1934. Metropol called its Disney short film program "Metropol's Spring Show", and from the same Christmas repeated the success of the annual "Metropol's Christmas Show". The cinematographer apparently abandoned the competition and voluntarily or involuntarily left Metropol to have both a Spring Show and a Christmas Show. The program in both cases consisted of 6 slightly older and newer short Disney cartoons. The "Cinema" was closed in 1939, rebuilt and reopened the same year under the name "Bristol Theater". Under this name, the cinema existed until 1966, when it had to close due to the circumstances, including especially the competition from TV, which affected several Danish cinemas, especially in the 1970s-80s. But in "Bristol" after World War II, matinee performances of 1 hour duration were shown. These were exclusively cartoon programs consisting of American cartoon series such as "Tom & Jerry", "Snurre Snup" and "Søren Spætte". Metropol continued to show its annual "Disney's Christmas Show" until the early 1980s, when the cinema had to close due to competition from TV.
Ole Andersen Olsen or Ole Olsen, as he later called himself, soon became tired of running a cinema business, and as early as 1906 he handed over "Copenhagen Cinema Theater" to others. The entrepreneur Ole Olsen would rather concentrate on producing feature films and for this purpose he had rented an allotment garden on Mosedalvej in Valby, where he within a few years began a large-scale production of shorter and longer feature films. From this relatively modest start, Ole Olsen's Films Fabrik developed into the world company Nordisk Films Kompagni A/S, which still exists here around the turn of the millennium, but which actually does everything other than produce feature films.
To begin with, Danish cinemas showed exclusively a repertoire of foreign films, ranging from reportage films to nature films, dramatic films, social films, crime films, costume films, cowboy films and adventure films to farce films. The language was no obstacle, because the films were almost always silent films until 1928, namely for the good reason that it had not yet succeeded in inventing a usable sound system and constructing a suitable sound equipment. The films were pantomime and therefore international and could be shown practically anywhere in the world where there were cinemas or screening machines. The relatively few explanatory texts, which for the sake of understanding were considered necessary to insert into the films at appropriate intervals, were relatively easy to switch to the national languages of the various countries. But as mentioned earlier, the cinema films for the smaller cinemas were usually accompanied by a local pianist, a so-called "piano boxer", while the larger cinemas usually could afford a band or orchestra.
However, the supply of the foreign-produced film repertoire, which was imported to Denmark, was nevertheless limited, and it therefore gradually became difficult to obtain news for the growing number of cinemas. Just as was the case for the daily press, the concept of news was a kind of code word for filmmakers and cinema owners. Without news no audience. Among other things, this led to that cinema owners like especially Ole Olsen in Copenhagen, and Th. Hermansen in Aarhus, itself began producing films for both the Danish and the international market. Soon after, a relatively large number of Danish film production companies emerged in Copenhagen, and the competition between these naturally became noticeable and caused the weakest-founded companies to eventually give up and close.
In 1906, the Jutland film pioneer Thomas S. Hermansen (1867-1930) founded Dansk Kino-Foto-Teknik-Industri in Aarhus. The company aimed to produce films for "Kosmoramas", which was the name of the time for what were later called cinemas. However, Hermansen was more interested in the work as a photographer and cameraman than in production, administration and sales work, and at the end of 1907 he therefore sold the company to a limited company, which was named A/S Th. S. Hermansen (Dansk Film Fabrik). Hermansen himself did not get a board position, but continued as a photographer. To lead the company, the board hired a former grocer, cinema owner and entertainment organizer from Ringkøbing, Frede Skaarup (1881-1942), who would later establish a significant reputation as longtime director of the Scala Theater in Copenhagen, where the famous Scala revyer for a number of years attracted a large audience. In 1909, Eduard Schnedler-Sørensen (1886-1947) was employed as a film director, and immediately after, production of feature films began. In January 1910, the company changed its name to A/S Fotorama and at the same time established a branch in Copenhagen, which was to take care of the company's diverse interests, including in particular the purchase and sale of films in the capital. (Note 19)
"Fotorama"'s Copenhagen branch was given an address at Amagertorv 33, on the corner of Amagertorv and Hyskenstræde, where on February 12 a newly decorated cinema also opened on the ground floor of the building. The cinema was arranged in the old but disused Løveapotek's premises and was therefore named "Løvebiografen", “The Lion Cinema”. Incidentally, it was only six or seven house numbers from "Copenhagen Cinema Theater". Schnedler-Sørensen was appointed head of Fotorama's Copenhagen branch. It was here that Robert Storm Petersen in 1919-22 submitted his cartoons for development and copying. As far as is known, Fotorama's branch moved in 1924 to premises in the newly built property Nygade 3, where Alexandra Teatret, UFA, Nygade Teatret, Dansk-Svensk Film, Universal Film and International Film Teknik have over time been housed. The lion cinema was later closed down and the premises again converted into a pharmacy under the name Løveapoteket. (Note 20)
On May 27, 1908, Continental Films Compagni was established, with address Tordenskjold’s Gade 22, but the company only managed to record a few reportage films and one feature film before in 1910 it switched to dealing exclusively with film technical problems, including experiments with color films. As far as the spring of 1914, plans were made to transfer the invention of color film to a newly formed joint stock company Natura Color Film Co., which, among other things, Peter Elfelt was a shareholder in, but in 1916 both this company and Continental Films Compagni ceased to exist. (Note 21)
From 1909, the film production company Biorama also existed, which mainly produced films for Scandinavia, and in 1912 the company was renamed Filmfabrikken Skandinavien. Both the cinema "Biorama" from 1905 and the film company were owned and set up on the initiative of the former market joker Søren Nielsen (1853-1922). In 1906 he sought to build a chain of cinemas in the metropolitan area, starting with Bio Lyngby and Hellerup Biograf Teater, and in 1907 Alléteatret, Jægersborg Allé in Charlottenlund. But already in 1905, when he established "Biorama" (the later Triangel Teatret) on Østerbrogade, he had opened the cinema Elektrisk Biograph-Teater (later renamed the Kinografen), and Kosmorama in Svendborg. Søren Nielsen also opened cinemas outside the country's borders: two in the Netherlands, one in Amsterdam, one in Rotterdam, and one in Kristiania (later Oslo) in Norway.
In addition to producing and distributing his own feature films, Søren Nielsen also imported foreign films, mainly American, and especially Mack Sennett's farces with the squinty Ben Turpin in the lead role. In 1911-13, Søren Nielsen also published Biorama Tidende, which is Denmark's second oldest film magazine. The oldest was called Nordisk Biograf-Tidende and was published 1909-10. The third Danish film magazine was simply called Filmen, and it was published 1912-19 by the film company "Kinografen".
In 1909, A/S Det stumme Teater was established, which had applied for and received permission to open a cinema in the so-called Panoptikon building on Vesterbrogade 3. The cinema was named Panoptikon-Theatret. One of the conditions of the grant was that the cinema should only show films that influenced and improved the taste of the audience. The grant was originally given to the author Sven Lange with Otto Larssen as artistic director. The latter died, however, at the beginning of 1910, and instead the director of the Lion Cinema, E. Schnedler-Sørensen, was appointed director. Another condition for the grant was that the company set up a production company. Named Regia Kunstfilms Co., it was intended to produce art films in the style of French art films that had just hit the market and whose qualities, especially in terms of dramatic action and actors, had impressed most filmmakers who did not have their background in the market and entertainment environment. The company's office and studio had an address in Jorcks Passage.
It was to the Panopticon building that Vilhelm Pacht had moved his panorama and cinema optico theater when the wooden shed on Rådhuspladsen was demolished in 1899. Pacht thus showed "body-sized, living pictures" here until around 1908-09, when the above-mentioned Sven Lange was granted permission to operate decidedly cinema business on the site under the name "Panoptikon-Teatret".
In 1910, Copenhagen got a new film production company called Kosmorama, which was established by the licensee for the cinema "Kosmorama", Østergade 26, Hjalmar Davidsen (1879-1958). This same year, this company consolidated its existence with the production of the erotic melodrama “The Abyss”, with Asta Nielsen and Poul Reumert in the two main roles and with Urban Gad as screenwriter and director. The film became a formidable world success, not least thanks to Asta Nielsen's non-theatrical, but dramatic, natural and daring acting style, which knew how to utilize the film media's tools.
Hjalmar Davidsen then produced some reportage films in 1910 and the feature film The Dangerous Play in 1911, before he left as a film producer. 1913-17 he was a director at Nordisk Film. But he remained cinema director from 1908 until his death in 1958. In 1919, he directed one film for Palladium, which became his last film. From 1908 to 1924 he was the licensee of "Kosmorama". In 1924-41 he ran Aleksandra Teatret, Nygade 3, and he continued as head of the cinema when it moved to a newly built property on the corner of Nørregade and Gl. Torv.
In 1912, the newly built Copenhagen Central Station was opened on the area opposite Tivoli, where the city's first railway station had been located 1847-1964. In the meantime, a larger and more contemporary railway station had been built at Vester Farimagsgade north of the old and newest railway station. It was called Copenhagen's second main railway station, and when it was abandoned in December 1911 in favor of the newest and current central railway station, the building came to stand empty. However, it was used as a transition to the warm room for the city's homeless and wandering vagabonds. But already the same year, the film pioneer Constantin Philipsen rented the building and had the platform hall arranged for Copenhagen's and even Europe's largest cinema theater to date, the Palace Theater, with room for 3,000 people. The cinema opened on October 17, 1912 with Asta Nielsen's German feature film "Children of the General" on the poster. The film was accompanied by music from the Palace Theatre's 30 - man orchestra.
Philipsen's lease on the building expired in 1916, as the plan was for the building to be demolished to make way for an extension of the northbound runway terrain. He therefore rented a building plot northeast of the old railway station building, where a new cinema of the same name was to be built. But before he realized his plans, he sold the building plot to Sophus Madsen, who became the client for the new large and prestigious Palads Teatret on Axeltorv. This cinema opened on January 26, 1918 and had 1790 seats. (Note 22)
However, Constantin Philipsen did not want to be left behind by Sophus Madsen, so he acquired a building plot in front of Gl. Kongevej near St. Jørgens Sø. The Cinema Palace with 1268 seats was built here, and the cinema opened on September 27, 1918. (Note 23)
However, the authorities soon realized that to the extent that the film industry in the form of film production, distribution and cinema operation could be predicted to take over, both internationally and nationally, it would also become a significant economic factor in society. As not least a significant entertainment industry, it was believed that the film medium had to be subject to both a licensing system, censorship regulations and taxation. The licensing system was intended to limit the number of film producers and cinemas and to protect them from excessive competition. The censorship provisions were to be introduced to protect public morals and the interests of the child audience. The main purpose of the taxation or amusement tax, as it was called, was to post money in the always sluggish municipal and state coffers.
In the years 1910-14, a number of larger or smaller film production companies and film distribution companies arose in Copenhagen, which with varying degrees of success sought to produce feature films that could attract audiences. Common to most was that they closed after shorter or longer periods of time. In 1912, the cinematographer had a large studio building built on a plot on Strandparksvej in Hellerup. It was later taken over by the film company Palladium, which was established in 1920 and which continued to produce feature films until the 1960s. It was at Palladium that the film director Lauritz (Lau) Lauritzen, senior (1876-1938), former director at Nordisk Film 1913-20, in 1921 began the later world-famous series of film farces with the comedy duo Fyrtårnet and Bivognen or in short Fy og Bi, which incidentally, it was recorded both here at home and abroad. The series ended for Lau seniors in 1932. The son, Lau Lauritzen junior (1910-1977) had in 1931 joined as an assistant, partly as a director and partly as a screenwriter, on the last three Fy and Bi films, the father had to do. But the series continued to be shot abroad until 1937, mainly in Austria and Germany and a single film in Sweden. In 1940, Palladium produced the last film with Fy og Bi: In the good old days, which had a script by Kelvin Lindemann and was directed by Johan Jacobsen. (Note 24)
Together with Henning Karmark (1907-1989), Lau Lauritzen founded jun. in 1936 ASA Film and ASA Filmudlejning in 1942. The film production took place at ASA Film Studio in Lyngby, which director John Olsen (1888-1959) had had built in 1934. ASA Film took over the studio in 1936, and A complete gentleman with Osvald Helmuth in the lead role , and with partner Alice O'Fredericks and Lau jun. as directors, became the company's first film. It premiered on January 25, 1937 and was the introduction to a large number of comedies, folk comedies and a few feature films with dramatic, psychological and social content. (Note 25)
In the years 1934-39, John Olsen had been responsible for the production of a total of 20 feature films, all of which were shot at ASA Film Studio. In 1941 he had Copenhagen's third largest cinema, Saga Bio, built on Vesterbrogade, with 1513 seats, and in 1942 he set up a studio with sound master Poul Bang Saga on Annettevej in Charlottenlund. The company's first feature film was Detective Bloch, which premiered on October 22, 1943. It was written by Grete and Axel Frische based on a novel by Friedrich Glauser, and directed by Grete Frische and Poul Bang. Photographers were Aage Wiltrup and Annelise Reenberg, the latter would later become a prominent director at Saga Studio. The main role as detective Bloch was played by Axel Frische and in the other roles a number of Danish films and theaters' more or less well-known actors were seen. (Note 26)
The occupation period 1940-45 was in several ways a difficult and problematic time for Danish film production, especially due to the restrictions, which i.a. also applied to the import of raw films. The German authorities took advantage of the situation to their own advantage, as Germany was the only country from which Danish film producers could buy raw films due to the war. This was particularly expressed in the way that the Germans made it a condition for raw film deliveries that Danish cinemas should increasingly show German feature films.
But the occupation period, especially from 1943-45, also meant a great opportunity for Danish feature films, as American feature films, which before the war had made up a large percentage of the cinemas' repertoire, were in practice banned. English feature films had already been banned shortly after the occupation began. In both cases, this led to a somewhat larger production of Danish feature films in the years 1940-44, but as early as 1945, the year of liberation, the number of films dropped to around pre-war levels. In the 1930s, the annual Danish production of feature films had been approx. 8-9 pieces, but from 1940-44 the number increased to about 16-18 feature films per. year. The number of films peaked at 19 feature films in 1942.
It was the film company Palladium that in 1942 accounted for the largest number of Danish feature films, namely 8, while the number of ASA feature films was 6, and Nordisk Film contributed only 5 feature films. From this, however, nothing can be deduced about the quality of the films, which was largely equal for the three film companies, and the repertoire continued to consist of a mixture of comedy, folk comedies, crime films, social psychological dramas and a few individual films with historical motifs. This year, ASA - probably with allusion to a certain tyrant south of Denmark - had chosen to re-record Svend Rindom's play The Fall of the Tyrant, which Carl Th. Dreyer had previously filmed under the title You Must Honor Your Wife (1925). The re-recording was by Alice O’Fredericks and Jon Iversen. Palladium presented a couple of crime films: A shot before midnight, with instruction by Arne Weel, and Natexpressen P. 903, under the direction of Svend Methling, while Nordisk Film i.a. stood for a feature film with historical motifs: Tordenskjold Goes in Land, which became the penultimate feature film for director George Schnéevoigt (1893-1961), which is a whole chapter in itself in the history of Danish film. His very last feature film, also for Nordisk, was the folk comedy All Man on Deck from later that year.
It was ASA that in the beginning of 1942 began a new line in Danish feature films with the production of the social psychological film Derailed, about a young, seriously ill society lady who suffers from memory loss and including strays into Nyhavn's harsh environment with prostitutes, thieves and record makers. The two most prominent protagonists, such as the society lady and the professional thief "Stenmåren", were played by Illona Wieselmann and Ebbe Rode, respectively, while Ib Schønberg had a minor but remarkable character role as the record player "Kammerherren", one of the most unsympathetic members of that circle. of more or less subsistence-free people living in the sinister pub environment in Nyhavn. Johannes Meyer delivered a believable portrait as the tragic, grotesque and drunken pacifier called "The Organist". The three Nyhavn’s girls or prostitutes "Jenny Bælam", "Lotte Cloc" and "Misse Lillebil" were played by Tove Grandjean, Sigrid Horne-Rasmussen and Lise Thomsen, respectively. In the latter's role and appearance, according to the circumstances of the time, there was a hint of an erotic realism, which would later become significantly more marked in Danish feature films.
The film was recorded according to Svend Rindom's screenplay, which was based on Karl Schlüter's plays, and the instruction was given to a couple of partners who in the following years would shine with several films of the same type. Bodil Ipsen was in charge of the personal instruction, and Lau junior was in charge of the technical side of the film.
But on the whole, it was the three film companies: Palladium, ASA and Nordisk, which in that order dominated the Danish film market both before, during and after the occupation, although with a declining trend for Nordisk Film.
In 1947, the ambitious and skilled film director Johan Jacobsen (1912-1972), who made his debut in 1938, became an independent producer of feature films, which he partly recorded at ASA's studios in Lyngby and partly at Saga's studios in Charlottenlund. In 1950, in collaboration with Preben Philipsen, he founded his own film production company, Flamingo Studio, Lindeallé in Nærum, which he owned until 1966. In 1954-66 he also had a grant for the Triangel Theater, the original Biorama, which Søren Nielsen had established in 1905. The company's first feature film was The Needle, with a script by Johannes Allen and with Johan Jacobsen as director. The main roles were seen by Ebbe Rode, Tove Maës, Hans Henrik Krause and Gunnar Lauring, assisted by Louis Miehe-Renard, Jørn Jeppesen, Sigrid Horne-Rasmussen, Ove Sprogøe and others. The film was about insulin smugglers. The company's next film was All This and Iceland with, which was a Nordic co-production about a woman and four Scandinavian men. The film premiered on September 3, 1951. The manuscript was written by Arvid Müller, Victor Borge, Soya, Mika Waltari, W. Semitjof, O. Helblom and Hampe Faustmann. Instructors were Johan Jacobsen (the Danish and Norwegian sections) and Hampe Faustmann (the Swedish and Finnish sections). The female lead role was played by Swedish Sonja Wigert and the male lead roles by Poul Reichhardt, Sture Lagerwall, Henki Kolstad and Georg Richter.
In the same year, however, there was also room for a satirical comedy about the Directorate of Goods, namely As Sent from Heaven, with a script by Børge Müller and with Johan Jacobsen as director, and his wife, Annelise Hovmand, as assistant director. The main roles in this cheerful comedy were played by Mogens Wieth, Birgitte Reimer and Kjeld Petersen, well supplemented by Johannes Meyer, Erik Mørk, Osvald Helmuth and others. The film had its premiere in Copenhagen cinemas November 16-26, 1951
It is symptomatic at the moment that A Stranger Knocks on (1959) became Flamingo Studio's biggest box office success, and that this was due to the fact that the film contains some distinctive erotic scenes. The mundane act begins with the widow of a fallen freedom fighter staying in her cottage, where one day she is approached by an unknown man who asks for shelter. He is in fact on the run, but does not tell her the whole truth about it. In her loneliness and hunger for love, she sympathizes with him, and they initiate an intercourse, which dramatically culminates in the fact that at the very moment of orgasm she discovers that he is identical with her husband's killer. The two main roles were played by Birgitte Federspiel and Preben Lerdorff-Rye, respectively.
The film premiered at the Triangle Theater on April 21, 1959 and was first taken off the poster on August 3 of that year. The audience flocked in large numbers and stood in line for hours in front of the cinema's two ticket booths. In the beginning there were two queues on both sides and both stretched far along Østerbrogade. Something similar had not been seen since the Swedish folk comedy Landevejs Kroen (1939), which in 1940 went for full houses in Nørreport Bio for over a year. The latter film was, by the way, totally devoid of any kind of eroticism, but here it was the immensely popular Edvard Persson and his Scanian dialect and nostalgic songs that attracted the audience to an extent that can only be compared to football matches at Østerbro Stadium or rock concerts here and elsewhere in the country. (Note 27)
However, during the 1960s, Flamingo Studio faced increasing financial difficulties, with several of the company's films making a significant loss. This was especially true of the two historical-mythological films Gøngehøvdingen (1961) and Dronningens Vagtmester (1963), both of which were based on Carit Etlar's exciting and famous novels of the same name. In 1964, Flamingo Studio was on the verge of bankruptcy. 1966 was definitely the end for Flamingo Studio, which this year sent Johan Jacobsen's last feature film, Siblings, to the cinemas. But even though the film had a number of excellent Danish actors in the roles, such as Gunnar Lauring, Preben Lerdorff-Rye and Birgitte Federspiel, it was clear that the talented director had lost the spark and the breath, and it was only on the poster for a short week in Copenhagen, where it was performed on Alexandra. Johan Jacobsen died in 1972, but he has left a worthy legacy as one of the great Danish film directors with the best of his feature films. (Note 28)
In 1958, Bent Christensen (1929-92) made his debut as a film director and screenwriter with the feature film The Girl and the Puddle, which was produced by Aage Stentoft's Scala Film. In 1961, Bent Christensen made his debut as an independent producer with Harry and the valet, which with Osvald Helmuth and Ebbe Rode in the lead roles became a great success for critics and audiences. The film, which was scripted by Bent Christensen and Leif Panduro, was recorded at Novaris Studio with the former as director (see below). In 1962, Bent Christensen produced the feature film The Swineherd and the Princess on the Pea, for which he and Poul Ilsøe had also written the screenplay. In 1963, he brought home another success with the film comedy The Vacuum Cleaner Band, which he directed and for which Panduro had written the screenplay. Bent Christensen became director of ASA film studio in 1964, and director of the cinema Kinopalæet in 1966. (Note 29)
In 1960, the director and screenwriter Peer Guldbrandsen (1912-1996) bought and rebuilt a disused farm in Risby a little west of Glostrup on Zealand. The place was set up as a complete movie studio under the company name Novaris Studio. On the same occasion, the film production company Novaris Film A/S was established, whose first feature film was the satirical farce Løgn og Løvebrøl (1961), with a script and instruction by Peer Guldbrandsen. (Note 30)
However, during the 1960s, Danish film companies and cinema owners increasingly had financial and financial problems, especially as film production and cinema operations had generally become more expensive, and with audiences beginning to fail cinemas and instead preferred to stay home at the coffee table in the living room and watch television. The conditions for film production and cinema operation had gradually become so bad that neither the film companies nor the cinemas would be able to survive financially if nothing extraordinary was done. Until now, the Ministries' Film Committee (MFU) had occasionally provided production support for a few Danish feature films, but now it was a question of establishing a Film Fund, allegedly with the ideal purpose of promoting film art in Denmark. The money was to come partly from a fee for cinema tickets, partly from a license fee for cinemas with an annual profit of more than DKK 40,000. The Film Fund was established on May 21, 1964 and was to provide financial support for film production, including the preparation of film scripts. At the same time, the Film Council was established, which was to assist the authorities and the Film Foundation's board with artistic assessment of films and film scripts.
This scheme with financial script and production support for films of all reputed categories, largely benefited the Danish film industry. And not least, the non-commercial part of the relatively modest Danish cartoon production benefited from the scheme.
In the period 1961-67, cinemas in Greater Copenhagen began to be closed down, but strangely enough, another large cinema was opened in Copenhagen at the same time, namely Imperial Bio on Gl. Kongevej by Vesterport. It has 1521 seats. The first Greater Copenhagen cinema to close was the Bergthora Theater with 418 seats. Then followed the Bristol Theater with 330 seats, the Regina Theater with 403 seats, Hvidovre Kino with 477 seats, Casino with 814 seats, Mini-cinema with 30 seats, Valby Theater with 500 seats, Bella Bio with 875 seats, Skovshoved Theater with 467 seats , Øbro Bio with 752 seats, Scala Bio with 548 seats, and the Cavalcade Theater Windsor with 712 seats.
The cinema closure took place despite a noticeable increase in the total number of cinema visits, but both the cinema owners and the film industry in general were strongly dissatisfied with the current film law from 1938. This outdated law made the industry unprofitable for cinema operation and film production. In addition, an amendment was required to the law on the amusement taxes, which weighed so noticeably on the budget. The cinema owners did not really want to support the ailing Danish film production.
But a large part of the problem, especially for the cinema owners, was and remained the new medium, Television (Fjernsynet), which had come to stay, and which in the following many years would also pose a great challenge to the Danish film producers. In the long run, this meant that Danish feature film production in particular suffered a transition as audiences increasingly failed cinemas. You would much rather sit at home and enjoy your evening coffee and watch movies and other programs on TV.
However, recent years have shown that the fear that the TV medium, the Internet and videos would outcompete and eventually close all cinemas has so far been unfounded. There is still interest among especially the younger generations to go to the cinema, as far as is known to an increasing extent. But it naturally characterizes the repertoire to some extent, although it must be noted that there is at least for the time being a fairly broad range of feature films, also for the adult generation. However, it is difficult to predict whether the trend will continue, because there are almost continuous technical improvements on the electronic front, so that in recent years e.g. has made it possible for an ordinary family to watch movies on DVD projected onto a big screen at home in the living room. If you have a sufficiently large living room or family room, films will thus be able to be experienced as if you were sitting in a cinema, except that you can be served coffee or tea at the same time. This means an expansion of family and friends gatherings in front of the TV screen, where the latter is no longer strictly necessary when you want to see films in the 'home cinema'.