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EAUH Conference 2018

Sessions

Session SS35. Cinema in/and the City: Cinema as Space and Social Experience in Europe (1895-2018)

Coordinators: Åsa Jernudd (asa.jernudd@oru.se), Thunnis Van Oort (thunnisvanoort@yahoo.co.uk)

Film academics and critics have predicted (and lamented) the end of theatrical cinema exhibition since the early 1960s and thereafter at every stage of innovation of distribution and exhibition of film (Gaudreault & Marion 2015). Cinema lost the greater part of its audience in the years following the dissemination of television yet theatrical cinema exhibition has prevailed, in cities more obviously than in rural areas. The interdependence of cinema and urban modernity has been thoroughly researched for the early cinema period (Charney & Schwartz 1995, Civʹjan 1998/1994, Friedberg 1993, Gunning 2000, Hansen 1994, Rabinovitz 1998, Singer 2001, etc). This stands in sharp contrast to the gap in knowledge about more recent times.

While leisure and pleasure have become key features in Western cities as they compete for residents, visitors and capital we know very little about the interdependence of cinema and urban modernity in the postwar period. The cultural renaissance of cities that took off in this period has been critiqued for creating public spaces that are increasingly commercialized and geared toward satisfying gentrified tastes of affluence (Sennet 1992, Zukin 2010). The suburban or out-of-town-located multiplex has been described as such a space that effaces difference rather than invites cultural diversity. To improve our understanding of the cinema as a space within the changing urban social landscape we invite contributions to the panel that allow us to compare patterns and processes of theatrical cinemas as public spaces for social experiences in European cities. Focus will be on the postwar era, but contributions on earlier historical periods are welcomed.

Going to the movies is more than simply watching a film. The “entertainment package” of theatrical cinema (Gomery 1986:78 qtd in Hark 2002) includes factors such as location, architecture and service; even in the rising heyday of cinema exhibition these factors have been crucial for attracting patrons (Gomery 1992). Results of ethnographic cinema studies also emphasize the importance of the site of exhibition as well as the sociality of the experience (Allen 2011, Kuhn 2002, Sjöholm 2003, cf. Maltby et al 2007). The question is, what composes the entertainment package of Western city cinemas in recent decades that can explain its resilience?
Keywords: cinema; audiences; leisure; public space; film exhibition; multiplex