During the First World War, the Antwerp Zoo got into stormy weather. Animals died because of food shortage and bombardments and the public stayed away. The opening of a movie theatre in the Zoo’s concert hallin 1915 turned the tide. Cine Zoologie became a wonderful success, saved the Zoo from bankruptcy and remained in business until 1936. Based on the substantial archive the history and program of Cine Zoologie were reconstructed. This detailed case study informs our understanding of both the history of cinema-going and the cultural history of the Great War. This research was published in several academic journals. But the unique archive had more potential. It consist of hundreds of beautifully illustrated program booklets and posters, designed by the best artists of their time. The archive is now show cased via the website www.cinezoologie.be, which also makes available the theatre’s program from its opening in 1915 to its closing in 1936. The sites inspires (graphic) designers as well as historians and the larger public. In the framework of the Antwerp Zoo’s 175th birthday, an exhibition –based on this research –took place at the Zoo’s premises(June -November 2018).
On this occasion, also a book on the history of Cine Zoologie was published: 'Cine Zoologie. Hoe film de Antwerpse dierentuin heeft gered'.
For their work on Cine Zoologie, Leen Engelen and Roel Vande Winkel were given the Annual Award for Science Communication by the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.


  • Leen Engelen (LUCA / KU Leuven)
  • Roel Vande Winkel (LUCA / KU Leuven)

Project partners:

  • the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp
  • Ghislain Belmans (Sien)
  • Geert Werkers (Sien)
  • Thomas Crombez (Letterwerk)

Research unit: Inter-Actions

Duration: 2017 - 2019