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Cinema Mass Consumption and the Commercialization of Youth Culture

The proposed research program aims to generate a better understanding of the role that cinema has played in the commodification of culture and the emergence of consumption-based lifestyles in relation to the emergence of post-war consumer society and against the backdrop of increased social and geographic mobility. It takes the Netherlands as a case study but in its international context.
The research centers on cinema’s core audience: teenagers and people in their early twenties. Historically, this group has dominated the audience for movies from the very beginnings of cinema presentation and thus shaped in important ways film production, distribution and exhibition. Cinema for its part has shaped youth culture, notably by 1. circulating more or less idealized images of youth and youth culture and 2. by providing youngsters a site for social exchange and sub-cultural identity formation.
While throughout history, young people have claimed and negotiated distinctive sub-cultural identities, the post-war era witnessed the rapid commercialization and institutionalization of youth culture. A major factor in this process seems to have been the spread of Americanized mass consumer culture in Europe, which in the Netherlands intersected with the process of de-pillarization (ontzuiling). For comparative perspectives, the program will draw upon case studies in Germany and Belgium (new research) and existing literature (broader international perspective).

The application will be developed around the following four central themes:
• geographic dynamics of cinema culture: centers versus peripheries
• social dynamics of consumer culture: politics of inclusion and exclusion
• cultural dynamic of film consumption and film fan culture: national versus international productions/stars; changes in reference culture
• cross-media consumption: interaction between old and new media.

Lost Audiences in Italy

This project addresses the gap in knowledge about the Italian cinema-going public of the 1940s and 1950s, for whom cinema was by far the most popular pastime.

Movie-going distribution and exhibition in German-occupied Belgium

I am investigating (1) the German ‘reorganisation’ of the Belgian film sector in World War II, (2) its effects on film distribution, film exhibition, movie-going, film reception, film production… I have been working/publishing on this subject since 2003, initially as a post-doctoral researcher and now (as associate professor) as a long-term project.
I am, simultaneously, conducting research on German film policy vis-à-vis Europe (occupied states, ‘befriended nations’, neutral states) in World War II.

Dutch Films with a Dutch Heart

The popularity of Dutch films at the time the first Dutch sound feature films were produced 1934- 1936, in particular three so called Jordaan films. These were melodramatic films with a comic touch and larded with many songs, set in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Amsterdam (the Jordaan) and based on popular theatre plays by Herman Bouber (1917-1921). Especially the first of these films De Jantjes (The Sailors, Jaap Speyer 1934) was an enormous success and heralded as ‘a true Dutch film with a Dutch heart’. The Netherlands is regarded by historians as a compartmentalized country in the 1930s, meaning that four so called pillars could be recognized: socialists (and communists); protestants, Catholics and Liberalen (comparable to Conservatives). These four pillars had their own political party, newspapers and schools. Apart from that there were the so called ‘neutrals’ not represented by a political party and with no schools. My question was how these three Dutch commercial feature films were received and if, and if so, how compartmentalization played a role in the reception and (lack of) success of these films.

Early Cinema-going in Colonial Indonesia

The research focuses on the exhibition, production and consumption of moving pictures in the Dutch colonies of the Netherlands Indies (present-day Indonesia). It examines the development of the local cinema-going scene within the multicultural popular entertainment culture, which consisted of local and imported forms of public amusements, studying the adaptation and hybridisation processes that moving picture exhibition underwent in order to appeal to local audiences.

Cultural Memory and British Cinema

We are interested in the memories of people who went to the cinema in 1960s Britain. This includes the films and stars they watched, the location of favourite cinemas, the rituals of going there, the people they went with and the character of the experience more generally. This was a time of significant social change and we believe that memories of cinema-going can shed light on questions about how and why the decade is remembered. This is true in terms of both cultual and social aspects of British life.