Loet C. Barnstijn
Cinema operator and film distributor Loet C. Barnstijn was born as Lodewijk Cohen in 1880.
In 1912, he sold his thriving textile business in The Hague in order to start a cinema. To distinguish himself from other Cohens, he renamed himself Loet C. Barnstijn, based on his mother's maiden name. He also started a film rental business, and initiated the Bond van Exploitanten van Nederlandsche Bioscoop-Theaters .
In 1919, he stopped running his cinemas in order to concentrate on distributing films imported from America. Because Barnstijn closely followed the developments in the United States, he saw early on what a major change the advent of sound films bring with it.
In 1929, he had Philips develop the ‘Loetafoon’, his own projection system for sound films. In the few years that followed, he imported sound-film cameras, and was the first person in the Netherlands to produce a short sound film.
The success of the first long feature film with sound, De Jantjes, in which Barnstijn was involved as a financier, set a series of new productions in motion. Barnstijn’s priority was with commercially successful films like Malle gevallen and De familie van mijn vrouw, because he believed that Dutch film could only survive if it had a flourishing film industry.
In 1935, Barnstijn opened a band-new studio complex near Wassenaar called Filmstad. Unfortunately, the Filmstad studios failed to produce any major successes, which led to Barnstijn’s empire becoming somewhat bogged down.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Barnstijn was in the United States, but his belongings were confiscated. Not long afterwards, in 1944, a British bombardment turned the Filmstad complex into rubble. After the war, Barnstijn decided to settle permanently in the United States. He died in 1953.