European Cinema Audiences is a comparative research project that explores European film cultures in the 1950s. The project, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (2018-2021) is led by Oxford Brookes University, Ghent University, and De Montfort University. It stems from the British Academy / Leverhulme fund in 2016.
During the 20th century, film was one of the most widely spread and popular cultural products. But even in the heydays of the 1950s, films were not distributed, viewed nor experienced everywhere in the same way. For the study of cinema as a cultural practice, historical research into the experience of cinemagoing is a quintessential area of research. The corpus of data on European cinema cultures is very heterogeneous. Some European institutions have been working on large national datasets. However, up to now there is hardly any comparative research. In this context, a comparative research model will re-evaluate the popular reception of film using an ethnographic audience study while reconstructing the film programming and exhibition structure in seven mid-sized European cities: Ghent (Belgium), Bari (Italy), Leicester (Great Britain), Rotterdam (The Netherlands), Brno (Czech Republic), Magdeburg (Germany), and Gothenburg (Sweden). These will be used as case studies in order to explore cinemagoing experiences in cities of similar size and film exhibition structure, but different film cultures. The project will make use of innovative digital tools to construct a digital archive, and for data analysis, which will be available as a model to other researchers for comparative work. The over-arching and long-term purpose of the research is to build a sense of shared identity across Europe, alongside deeper understanding of and respect for cultural idiosyncrasies, by collecting, comparing, and sharing data and narratives related to the historical experience of cinemagoing. European Cinema Audiences can be used as a framework for other comparative studies, in order to develop a pan-European project on film popularity, exhibition and reception.
The project has four core objectives:
1 Digital Archive:
To develop a deeper understanding of cinema audiences in the 1950s in 7 European mid-sized cities by creating a digital archive of cinemagoing material collected from public archives.
2 Movie Preferences:
To investigate cinemagoing preference across Europe, and gain a deeper understanding of the cultural specificities of diverse communities by collecting & analyzing film programming data.
3 Shared Memories:
To engage different generations of audiences to foster participation with the digital archive on European cinema audiences & cultures.
4 Entangled Histories:
To contribute to the transnational and comparative history of European film programming, exhibition and reception.