HOMER Network Logo

Session 10: Approaches: Analyzing Audience Preferences

Paper 1 - José-Carlos Lozano, Texas A&M International University, Exhibition of national and foreign films in six Mexican cities during the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema: The year of 1952.

From the late 1930s through the early 1950s, Mexico experienced the so-called Golden Age of Cinema in which hundreds of movies were made and exported to Latin America, Spain, and the United States (for Latino audiences). During the 1940s, a total of 626 Mexican films were produced, while in the 1950s that number grew to 894. Mexican movies were extremely popular both in its own country and all over the region, and Mexican actors like Pedro Infante, Dolores del Río, Jorge Negrete, María Félix, Marga López, Pedro Armendariz, Ninón Sevilla, Cantinflas, among many others, became as famous and admired by Latin American cinemagoers as any Hollywood star.

This huge popularity of Mexican films, however, did not displace U.S. productions. In the 1940s, 2,864 American films were released in Mexico (more than two thousand titles more than the number of national ones) and while in the 1950s the number of U.S. films decreased to 2,352, it was still significantly superior to the total number of Mexican features released during the same decade (Amador & Ayala Blanco, 1982 & 1985).

This paper discusses the programming of Mexican and American films in six Mexican cities during the year 1952: Tampico, Torreón, Monterrey, Saltillo, León, and Veracruz. Based on the newspaper movie listings for 52 days (one per each week of that year), the analysis explores and compares the number and type of productions exhibited in the six cities, as well as the most popular actors, movies, and genres.

JOSE-CARLOS LOZANO. Professor and Chair of the Psychology and Communication Department at Texas A&M International University. M.A. in Media Research, Leicester University, England. Ph.D. in Media Studies, University of Texas at Austin. Co-Principal investigator and coordinator of an international research project comparing the historical exhibition of films and cinema going in six Mexican cities and Laredo, Texas.

Paper 2 - Julie Allen, Brigham Young University, Historical Spectacles and Social Dramas: The Popularity of European Silent Film in Australasia.

The fact that more than two hundred Italian silent films were screened in Australia and New Zealand between 1908 and 1921, some of which remained in circulation for up to eight years, in the case of Francesca Bertini’s 1918 version of La Tosca (though the average was closer to a year), makes it clear that Italian silent film was very popular in Australasia. Similar numbers for French, German, and Nordic (Danish and Swedish) films confirm that the popularity of European silent film was not limited to Italian productions, but numbers alone do little to make sense of that popularity or answer questions such as why European silent films were so popular in Australasia, or what kind of films were particularly likely to be imported from the Continent. Answers to those questions lie outside the realm of quantifiable statistics, in the subjective categories of narrative, aesthetics, and cultural identity. By looking at which European films were screened in Australasia in the silent period—from visually stunning Italian historical spectacles, such as The Last Days of Pompeii (1908), Quo Vadis? (1913), and Cabiria (1914) to psychologically gripping Nordic social dramas such as Temptations of Great City (1911) and The Phantom Carriage (1921), as well as films bolstered by the personal celebrity of male comics like Foolshead and Tontolini and female stars such as Asta Nielsen and Bertini —and analyzing what kinds of stories those films told, this paper suggests that treating films as text is central to understanding both the enthusiastic reception of European silent films in Australasia in the pre-World War I era and the significance of the drastic reduction of European silent films that made it into Australasian cinemas in the interwar period.

AJon Burrows. 2017. The British Cinema Boom, 1909-1914. A Commercial History. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sheldon Hall and Steve Neal. 2010. Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters. Detroit: Wayne State UP.

Tom O’Regan. Australian National Cinema. London: Routledge.

Julie K. Allen is the author of Icons of Danish Modernity: Georg Brandes & Asta Nielsen (2012) and Danish but Not Lutheran: The Impact of Mormonism on Danish Cultural Identity, 1850-1920 (2017), as well as numerous articles on European silent film, Hans Christian Andersen, Danish immigration, and other topics.

Paper 3 - Karina Pryt, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Coming back home to Warsaw - Pola Negri’s films and their popularity in an East European multicultural city in the 1920s.

Pola Negri (Apolonia Chałupiec 1897-1987) is considered as one of the most popular actresses of the silent film era. She debuted on stage and in film in Warsaw and moved with her already established on-screen image as a feme fatal and exotic beauty to Germany in 1917. There, she jumped to international stardom and by the early 1920s had become the first European star contracted by Hollywood. It would appear that Negri’s worldwide popularity is unquestionable. Yet, systematic empirical studies on the reception of her films do not exist.

This paper investigates the reception of Negri’s films in the Polish capital that was also home to the largest urban Jewish community in Europe. Working in the field of New Cinema History, this paper adapts genre and stardom theories and asks as follows: Which of her films was most popular and why? What factors stood behind the success? Did the popularity of her films differ in relation to class or confession of the audiences? Striving to answer these questions, the paper starts with the mapping of exhibition places of Negri’s films in QGIS. Next, it estimates the popularity of her films using cinema programs and POPSTAT index (John Sedgwick). Finally, the paper contextualizes the findings by analyzing articles on Negri and her films in the local Polish, Polish-Jewish and Yiddish-language newspapers.

This paper is part of an interdisciplinary project that targets the social and cultural history of cinema in Warsaw (1895/6-1939). The essential input comes from classical film history and Jewish Studies.

Delgado, Sergio (2016): Pola Negri. Temptress of silent Hollywood, Jefferson.

Kotowski, Mariusz (2014): Pola Negri. Hollywood’s first femme fatale, Lexington,

Klenotic, Jeffrey (2011): Putting Cinema History on the Map: Using GIS to Explre the Spatiality of Cinema. In: Richard Maltby, Daniël Biltereyst und Philippe Meers (Hg.): Explorations in New Cinema History. Approaches and Case Studies. Malden, S. 58–84.

Sedgwick, John (2000): Popular filmgoing in 1930s Britain. A choice of pleasures. Exeter

Karina Pryt is historian with expertise in cultural diplomacy, German history, and Polish history. Presently, she is working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Film Department at the Goethe University of Frankfurt/M. Her main interests include also cinema history, economic and social history of film business, and Jewish history.

Paper 4 - Jannie Dahl Astrup, University of Copenhagen & The Danish Film Institute, ”Welcome to Hamburg, Pat and Patachon”. Advertising Danish Slapstick Stars in 1920s and early 1930s Germany.

Entering the German market in 1923 in the break-through hit farce, “He, She and Hamlet”, Danish comedic duo Pat and Patachon became popular and beloved film stars almost overnight. Easily recognizable in their vagabond attire the tall Pat and short Patachon were ideal for marketing their series of slapstick films from the Danish production company Palladium. Their stardom of the silent cinema era lasted long into the advent of sound and their characters appeared in talkies throughout the 1930s. The specific case of Pat and Patachon – Danish stars with international audience appeal – is thus a treasure trove of ephemera and paratexts on transnational cinema culture.

This paper will analyze the differing advertising activities, ephemera and texts related to marketing the films starring Pat and Patachon in Germany. Cities and cinemas all across the country welcomed actors Carl Schenstrøm (Pat) and Harald Madsen (Patachon) as film heroes throughout their careers. Gigantic crowds greeting them upon arrival at railroad stations and in cinemas. Box office surveys of the period (e.g. Film-Kurier, May 31, 1930) support their claim to fame. Cinema owners often listed several Pat and Patachon films among the most popular with their audiences when asked, thus offering valuable insight on specific programming strategies. Tracing personal appearances, deceitful doppelgangers, advance publicity and outdoor cinema displays of Pat and Patachon titles, this paper assesses the presence and impact of two Danish stars in Weimar Germany. Secondly, the paper also examines how Danish media and Palladium itself recounted and used the German success of the two stars for publicity purpose.

Bachmann, Anne. 2013. Locating Inter-Scandinavian Silent Film Culture: Connections, Contentions, Configurations. Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis

Lange-Fuchs, Hauke. 2014. “Pat and Patachon: A ‘German’ comedy couple on the screen” In Journal of Scandinavian Cinema Volume 4, Number 3, pp. 209-214.

Loiperdinger, Martin. 2019. “Early Film Stars in Trade Journals and Newspapers: Data-Based Research on Global Distribution and Local Exhibition” In The Routledge Companion to New Cinema History, edited by Daniël Biltereyst, Richard Maltby, Philippe Meers, pp. 138-146. London: Routledge.

Wickham, Phil. 2010. “Scrapbooks, soap dishes and screen dreams: ephemera, everyday life and cinema history”, In New Review of Film and Television Studies, 8:3, pp. 315-330.

Jannie Dahl Astrup is a PhD fellow employed at The Danish Film Institute. Her research concerns the history of the Danish film production company Palladium and its transnational mode of distribution and marketing in the 1920s and early 1930s. Her PhD project is part of the Danish-German project ‘A Common Film Culture? Denmark and Germany in the Silent Film Era, 1910–1930’.

Paper 5 - Nataliya Puchenkina, University of Caen, From Soviet to “Bourgeois” Appreciation: Soviet Cinema in Search for Audience in the late 1920s.

The historiography has shown that the Soviet Union was among the first countries to approach cinema audiences as an object for systematic sociological and reception analysis: as early as in the 1920s, soviet cultural organizations and researchers seeked to evaluate viewer’s preferences and impressions of cinema-going experience through surveys distributed to spectators. The most well-known case is ODSK’s survey upon the viewing of Eisenstein’s October (Sumpf, 2004; Bohlinger, 2011), even though it has been recently shown that the investigations were not limited to propaganda movies (Zhdankova, 2013; Foht-Babouchkin, 2013). While these surveys have their limits, their common point is that they are seeking to get in touch with “real” viewers, albeit among the available audiences. What is less known, is that the Soviet administrations in charge of cinema export, such as Sovkino in the 1920s, were also quite looking forward to making movies especially appealing to foreign audiences. If this task meant changing its twists and turns, so be it: Sovkino’s archives show that some passionate discussions were held in the late 20s as for adapting movies “to a bourgeois taste”. Compared with attempts to understand Soviet audiences’ taste, this task is doomed to deal with an almost complete lack of factual information, and yet, the assumptions of what this mythic “bourgeois taste” appear to be rather s trong. In this paper, based on archival documents and my PHD’s investigations on Soviet films’ distribution in Paris, I intend to explore how the image of virtual “bourgeois” movie-goer was shaped and in what manner it might have shaped the face of Soviet cinema production in the late 1920s.

Bohlinger Vincent, “Engrossing? Exciting! Incomprehensible? Boring! Audience survey responses to Eisenstein’s October”, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, 2011 (no5/1), pp. 5-27. Fokht-Babushkin Yuri (ed), Publika kino v Rossii: Sotsiologicheskie svidetel′stva 1910–1930-kh godov, Moscow, Kanon+, 2013. Sumpf Alexandre, “Le public soviétique et Octobre d’Eisenstein : enquête sur une enquête“, 1895, 2004/1 (n° 42). URL : https://www.cairn-int.info/revue-1895-2004-1-page-.htm ; Zhdankova Ekaterina, “Movie theatres in the USSR through the viewers’ eyes: expectations and everyday life during the NEP”, Vestnik Permskogo Universiteta, 2013 (no 3) pp. 136-143. URL: https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/kinoteatry-v-sssr-glazami-zriteley-ozhidaniya-i-povsednevnost-v-periodnepa-na-materiale-anketirovaniya-i-sotsiologicheskih-oprosov (дата обращения: 27.11.2020).

Ph.D researcher in Cinema Studies based in Paris and affiliated with LASLAR laboratory at the University of Caen, I’m interested in exploring the practices of sending Soviet cinema abroad, as well as its distribution and reception in France during the interwar period.