Newsreel Production, Distribution and Exhibition in Belgium, 1908–1994
This chapter surveys the history of newsreels in Belgium from the introduction of the newsreel genre by French companies and their international competitors (1908) to the disappearance of the main Belgian newsreel Belgavox (1994). It is based on original archival materials and secondary literature, and it contextualizes the Belgian film market within a broader international framework.
Until the Second World War, the open, liberal film market of Belgium was almost completely dependent on foreign suppliers of newsreels. Attempts to establish a local newsreel met with obstacles of a structural-economic (limited market), commercial (market agreements and package deals) and political nature (lack of official support). After the Second World War, the Belgavox newsreel was established. It was able to compete with large foreign enterprises owing to official Belgian support and, as a result, lasted longer than most other newsreels only disappearing in 1994.
In this edited collection on newsreels, Belgium serves as a case study of: (1) the ways in which large international companies competed with each other in small markets; (2) the ways in which local audiences, intelligentsia and authorities reacted to those newsreels; and (3) the difficulties smaller enterprises encountered when they tried to create and distribute their own newsreel. This contribution addresses not only the structure of the market, but also the historical reception and the content of the newsreels, which centred on ‘soft’ and small news items.