Business Diversity – importing and distributing films

By 1920 there were already 3,500 cinemas in Germany – cinema was the most popular pass-time in Germany and the business was in full swing, with theaters in the larger cities handling enormous crowds every night. Everyone in the business was also keeping close watch on the motion-picture situation in the United States. They were aware of the so-called American film “invasion” into England and they anticipated a similar move into Germany, once the import ban would be lifted, which it did in May of that year.

Nivelli clearly identified this as an opportunity to minimize risk, by diversifying into importing and distributing of international films. In February 1920 he co-founded a new enterprise involving sizable and multi-national financial resources – the “British-American Film Company, Ltd.” (BAFAG), with offices in Berlin and in London. Nivelli, as president of the company, orchestrated the transactions from Berlin. He was assisted by an American and English staff but he also travelled to London, Warsaw and New York to attend to the business first-hand.

While Nivelli was still producing films through Nivo-Film, he was also serving as managing director of two other film rental and distribution companies – “Tellus Hispano Film” and “Meteor Monopol Film rental & sales”.

However, the growth of the industry during the postwar period came to an end in 1923, as hyperinflation set-in and the monetary system collapsed. Like many others in this volatile market, Nivelli lost sizable amounts of money, which in turn made film production almost impossible. In an attempt to stay afloat, Nivelli concentrated on film distribution – he merged BAFAG in 1923 with two other production companies – his own “Nivelli Film Corp.” and “Foreign Film Corp.”, a company that operated out of Buenos Aires. In 1924 he produced documentaries of state ceremonies, probably commissioned by the government, he also became manager of a major cinema in Berlin, “Palmenhaus Kino” and served as a director in “PAW”, a Polish production and distribution company operating in Warsaw.

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