The next HoMER webinar will take place on Monday 12 April at 4pm (UK time).

Our speaker will be Agata Frymus (Monash University Malaysia) who will present on ‘Movie-Struck Girls and Black Cinemagoing in New York City, 1909 – 1930’.

Please register for the event here:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting via Zoom.

The speaker will present a 20-minute paper, followed by discussion and Q&A


This paper investigates the way in which Black women of Harlem engaged with cinematic culture during the silent film era. Through an investigation of dispersed sources, ranging from Black press, court documents, personal correspondence to census data and municipal records, I aim to uncover the uses of cinema and cinematic spaces in the lives of Black communities. African American periodicals circulated within the area – The New York Amsterdam News, The Crisis and The New York Age – are especially illuminating, not only because of their role in advertising Black-oriented theatres and businesses, but chiefly due to their unwavering commitment to the promotion of critical citizenship within the community.

Existing, sparse scholarship on cinemagoing in the early film period, concentrates itself with culturally dominant, white audience. Though pioneering, studies developed by Gaylyn Studlar and Shelley Stamp tend to construct a gender and class-specific, but race-neutral moviegoer, disregarding the racial inferences of spectatorial practices. To unearth a Black female cinemagoer, I centre her within a narrow, geographic and socio-political environment of 1920s’ Harlem, of which racial segregation was a fundamental part.

New York is a fruitful site for the investigation of debates of race and mass entertainment because of the high concentration of Black migrants and cinemas: according to US census data, over 109,133 Manhatanittes were Black in 1920s. In 1930, the figure doubled, with the percentage of Blacks rising to 12 percent of the entire population of the borough.


Agata Frymus is a Lecturer in Film, TV and Screen Studies at Monash University Malaysia. Agata received her PhD in 2018 from University of York. She is the author of Damsels and Divas: European Stardom in Silent Hollywood (Rutgers University Press, 2020). Her research interests oscillate around the issues of race, audiences and stardom, particularly during the silent film era. Her work has been published in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and TV; Celebrity Studies and Feminist Media Studies, amongst others. 


Past Webinars

Robert James ‘“Don’t Close Our Picture Theatres”: Cinema-going in Wartime Britain’. Monday, 22 March 2021 at 5pm (UK time)

Please register for the event here: https://durhamuniversity.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJctdeGuqDgvE9RAMFscXapt_6kKt4YYUW-e

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting via Zoom.

The speaker will present a 20-minute paper, followed by discussion and Q&A.


On 26 February 1916 a contributor to the film fan magazine Pictures and the Picturegoer appealed to the government to do more to protect the cinema industry after it was suggested that foreign films, which of course included those from the lucrative Hollywood market, be prohibited. Clearly aghast at this proposal, and using the magazine as a mouthpiece for their views, the contributor – writing under the inflammatory headline ‘Don’t Close Our Picture Theatres’ to highlight the likely effect of the government’s proposals – highlighted the cinema’s important wartime role as a way to curry favour and seek protection. This was common practice during both world wars when, threatened with closure or some other form of hardship due to the impact of the war, film industry personnel promoted the positive contribution the leisure activity could have on society in order to ensure its survival.

This paper will outline the difficulties trade personnel faced when operating in wartime Britain, while also revealing the lengths to which they went to ensure that their businesses remained relevant. It will show how cinema operators championed the pastimes benefits as a propaganda source, entertainment medium, or economic commodity in order to protect it. In these periods of uncertainty, industry leaders repeatedly promoted the important role that cinema could play, making less than coded attempts to remind government officials and other critics of the pastime that they would need their full support if they were to fulfil the function they intended for them.


Robert James is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Portsmouth. His research interests have long centred on British society’s leisure habits, paying particular attention to the relationship between leisure provision and consumption. He is author of Popular Culture and Working-Class Taste in Britain 1930-39: a round of cheap diversions?, and has published on cinema-going, censorship, popular taste, libraries, and reading habits in Britain in the twentieth century. He is currently researching the activities of cinema managers in Britain in the first half of the twentieth century.

Monday 22 February, 5pm (UK time).

After the success of the first interactive session with Jessica Whitehead and Thunnis van Oort last year, the February webinar will follow a similar structure. This month the topic for discussion will be ‘Cinema and the Second World War’.

The speakers (who include Richard Farmer, Linda Pike and Grace Stephenson) will briefly share their research relating to film production, exhibition and reception during the conflict. Attendees will then be split into break-out sessions for group discussions relating to the different strands of research.

Register at the following link and please make sure you have the latest version of Zoom downloaded for compatibility with the Break-Out Room function:


If you have any further questions about this event, please contact Sam Manning (sam.manning@qub.ac.uk) or Grace Stephenson (grace.e.stephenson@durham.ac.uk).

18 January 2021

Monique Toppin ‘Cinemagoing and the Politics of Space in Little Nassau during the 1950s’.




Considering the unwritten code of segregation within the city of Nassau prior to and during the 1950s, it is not particularly surprising that the cinemas would have instituted some form of racial demarcation to appease social nuances of that time. My presentation focuses on the influence of racial discrimination and its impact on cinemagoing. It examines the politics of space in the cinemagoing experience and peers through the lens of the interviewed narrators to deconstruct the memories of their experiences and observations in the context of race within the place of the cinemas in Nassau. It also looks at their attendance of other public places that encompassed the geographical area and socially allied ‘space’, which permeates the collective impression of their cinema experience during that period. My talk will highlight ways in which the racial divides influenced the daily life and attitudes of the narrators during that epoch and evaluates the racial impressions left on the contrasting memories of the racially mixed narrators. Finally, I will briefly assessess the cinema experience in the 1950’s as a social structure to determine the ways in which it functioned as a ‘third place’, a place that is different from home or work, and a “social anchor of community life” (Harris, 2007, p. 147), especially for young Bahamians residing in Nassau in this post war colonial era.

Monday 7 December, 5pm (UK time).

Jessica Whitehead and Thunnis van Oort – ‘Comparative Histories of Moviegoing’



In this interactive session we will present our edited collection examining comparative histories of moviegoing. The collection, edited by Jessica Whitehead and Thunnis van Oort, encompasses a broad tent approach positioned across a spectrum that ranges from works comparing oral histories, programming, and distribution to a myriad of other interventions and new perspectives within New Cinema History.  We will give a short presentation on the collection and then engage in a group discussion on comparative practices moving forward, so please bring along any current datasets or projects. Also, make sure to have the latest version of zoom downloaded because we will be using the new breakout room features in this presentation.



Monday 2 November, 5pm (UK time).

Our speaker will be Emma Forth (University of Edinburgh), who will present on ‘The Development of Early Cinema in the United Kingdom, 1909-1918: A Four Nations Study’.

Early British Cinema                  


This project explores the rise and role of purpose-built British cinemas in 1909-1918, through a social and cultural analysis of the decade. This understudied period – encompassing passage of the 1909 Cinematograph Act regulating the British industry for the first time, to the end of the First World War – saw cinema become the most popular form of commercial mass-entertainment in Britain. This decade developed both the social role of cinema and the consumption of film within local communities in Britain. Scholarship on early cinema, 1895-1927, is often nation-specific and chronologically divided with the outbreak of the First World War as the break point. This project, however, provides a comparative analysis across all four nations of the United Kingdom, aiming to provide a greater understanding of the central decade of this period of leisure practice modernisation.
This paper will outline the aims of my project, as well as presenting initial research findings. Thus far, I have created the first database of British and Irish early cinemas using trade directories, and mapped these locations. This visually depicts the geographic spread of British and Irish cinemas in 1914 at the height of British cinema’s first wave. By using the location of cinemas as a starting point, this project will seek to explore the circumstances surrounding the development of this new leisure practice, and assess the social and cultural implications of cinema-going within British communities, from cities to small towns alike.

I completed my undergraduate degree in History at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2014. I then took a break from education, working as a risk analyst, running the admissions department in a high school, and as a receptionist and volunteer at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden. I returned to university in 2018, completing my MSc in History at the University of Edinburgh, before staying on to start my PhD from September 2019. My project looks at the development of early cinema across all four nations of the United Kingdom, 1909-1918.