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Session 14: Approaches: Comparative Research

Paper 1 - Asa Jernudd & Jono Van Belle, Orebro University, Comparing Memories of Cinemagoing Before and After Television.

The coming of television marks a major disruption in the history of cinemagoing in Sweden. In the late 1950s cinemagoing peaked and in 1956 attendance rose to an all-time high of around 80 million. In the same year, Swedish television started regular broadcasts. In 1963 cinema attendance had dropped to less than 40 million and by the end of the decade to around 26 million per year (Furhammar 2003).

The crisis hit the cinemas in rural areas harder than it did the cinemas in cities and larger towns. In the standard account of Swedish film history, Leif Furhammar describes changes in the programming of cinemas that occurred at the time. In cities and larger towns, art house cinemas increasingly attracted an elite, cinephile audience. At the same time, cinema culture at large seemed to degenerate, especially in rural localities. As evidence of this degeneration, Furhammar points to an increase of low-brow film genres, reruns, as well as exploitation films not least soft-core pornographic film. As for the audience, he suggests that it is the historically large age group of teenagers that allowed cinemas to stay in business.

Interviews with people in two age cohorts, the first involving 20 respondents born around 1940 and the second with 20 respondents born around 1950, reveals the contours of this cultural rupture. The respondents include men and women, who come from a variety of social backgrounds and who lived in towns and villages of different size. The selection allows us to tease out differences related to the intersecting features in the memories of cinemagoing among people who were young at the time when cinemagoing was the preferred everyday leisure activity, as well as during and after television, when it changed into something else.

Jernudd, Å. “Youth, Leisure and Modernity in the film One Summer of Happiness (1951): Exploring the space of rural film exhibition in Swedish post war cinema” (2018). In: Treveri Gennari, D. Hipkins, D. & O’Rawe, C. (eds.) Rural Cinema Exhibition and Audiences in a Global Context. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan; p. 325 – 337.

Jernudd, Å and Lundmark, M. (2016). “Cinemagoing in Sweden in the 1940s: Civil society organisations and the expansion of rural film exhibition.” In: Thissen, J. and Zimmermann, C. (eds.) Cinema beyond the City: Small-town and rural film culture in Europe. London: British Film Institute; p. 67 –86.

Dr. Asa Jernudd is associate professor in Media and Communication at Orebro University, Sweden. She is principal investigator of the project, Swedish Cinema and Everyday Life: A study of cinema-going in its peak and decline (2019-2021), financed by The Swedish National Research Council. The project involves interviews with elders about memories of film and cinema-going in the 1950s and 1960s, alongside investigations of cinema locations and cultures in the region of Bergslagen.

Dr. Jono Van Belle is a postdoctoral researcher at Orebro University, Sweden, working on the project, Swedish Cinema and Everyday Life: A study of cinema-going in its peak and decline (2019-2021). Previous research has focused on how films and the auteur are indispensable in memories of cinemagoing, using the case of Ingmar Bergman.

Paper 2 - Clara Pafort-Overduin, Utrecht University; Andrzej Dębski, University of Wroclaw; Thunnis van Oort, University of Amsterdam, & Radboud University Nijmegen; Terezia Porubcanska, ViDi University of Antwerp & Masaryk University, Brno; Karina Pryt, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main; Pavel Skopal, Masaryk University, Brno; Roel Vande Winkel, KU, Leuvel : Going to the movies in German-occupied territory in World War II.

During the Second World War cinema attendance boomed in the whole of Europe, including the German-occupied countries (Vande Winkel & Welch 2011). The Reich’s cultural policy conceptualised the “New Europe” as a huge market for its film output (Martin 2016) and tailored the distribution system in the occupied countries accordingly (Vande Winkel 2017). In some occupied regions, such as the occupied Eastern Territories, competition was wiped out by granting German productions a virtual monopoly. In most occupied countries American films were banned, but local productions and/or films from befriended German countries were still allowed (Vande Winkel & Welch 2011). So filmgoers still had a selection to choose from but this selection was shaped by interventions by the occupying powers.

We are interested in the interplay between audience preferences, structures of four selected cinema markets and interventions by the occupying administration. In our presentation we will reflect on methodological issues that we encountered while working on comparative analyses of cinema cultures in Brussels, The Hague, Krakow and Brno during World War II. What variables should we use for our comparison? What conceptual frameworks do we need to understand film popularity under occupation? How should we handle POPSTAT results collected from occupied cities? In what way do these results tell us something about actual preferences audiences might have had?

Martin, Benjamin G. The Nazi-fascist New Order for European Culture. Harvard University Press, 2016. Schiweck, Ingo. “[…] weil wir lieber im Kino sitzen als in Sack und Asche.” Der deutsche Spielfilm in den besetzten Niederlanden 1940-1945. Waxmann, 2002.

Skopal, Pavel. Going to the Cinema as a Czech: Preferences and Practices of Czech Cinemagoers in the Occupied City of Brno, 1939-1945. Film History 2019, vol. 31, issue 1, pp. 27-55. Trojanowski, Krzysztof. Świnie w kinie? Film w okupowanej Polsce. PWN, 2018.

Vande Winkel, Roel & Welch David (eds). Cinema and the Swastika: The International Expansion of Third Reich Cinema. Palgrave, 2011 (revised edition).

Vande Winkel, Roel, “Die Expansion der Ufa während des zweiten Weltkrieges. Verleihgesellschaften im Ausland zwischen 1939 und 1945”, p. 57-66 in Rother, Rainer & Thomas Vera (eds). Linientreu und Populär: das Ufa-Imperium 1933-1945. Bertz+Fischer, 2017.

 Clara Pafort-Overduin is lecturer and researcher within the department of Media and Culture Studies and the Institute for Cultural Inquiry at Utrecht University. She works on popular film in the Netherlands. She published several book chapters and articles on the popularity of national films. Together with economic historian John Sedgwick and Marketing economic Jaap Boter she published on the peculiarities of the structure and development of the Dutch film market in the 1930s.

Paper 3 - Sam Manning, Queen’s University Belfast, Cinema Attendance and the Urban experience in Post-War Bari and Leicester.

This paper provides a comparative analysis of the post-war relationship between cinemas and the urban environment in two medium-sized European cities: Bari and Leicester. Contemporary statistics provide general information on the number of cinemas and box-office revenue in the period under review. These figures, however, tell us little about the architecture of venues, their geographical spread, the social role they played for their citizens or their relationship to the built environment. This paper therefore uses oral history testimony gathered from 40 residents of Leicester and Bari born between 1928 and 1960, collected as part of the AHRC-funded European Cinema Audiences project The interviews covered a wide range of topics, including cinema attendance, social habits, programming and favourite films/stars. This paper focuses particularly on how participants recalled the place of cinemas within the built environment, their journeys to and from the cinema, and the role of cinema in urban areas. The interviews show the social and economic distinctions that patrons made between city centre, inner-city and suburban cinemas. They also show how cinema attendance offered citizens a chance to transform their daily life experiences and impacted their relationship with the cities in which they lived. Furthermore, the testimony reveals that local cinemas played a crucial social role within neighbourhoods that changed significantly in the period under review. By drawing on recent work in disciplines such as cinema history, film studies and urban studies, this paper uncovers new information on the social role of the cinema and investigates the relationship between cinema, architecture, and the social geography of the city.

Biltereyst, D., R. Maltby and P. Meers (eds.), The Routledge Companion to New Cinema History (2019). Harper, S. and Porter, V., British Cinema of the 1950s: the Decline of Deference (2003).

Sedgwick, P. Miskell and M. Nicoli, ‘The market for films in postwar Italy: evidence for both national and regional patterns of taste’, Enterprise & Society, xx (2019), 199–218. Trevari Genari, D. et al (eds.), Italian Cinema Audiences: Histories and Memories of Cinema-Going in Post-War Italy (2020).

Sam Manning is a postdoctoral researcher on the European Cinema Audiences project. He was previously an AHRC research fellow, where he developed public engagement events for Queen’s Film Theatre. His first book, titled ‘Cinemas and Cinema-Going in the United Kingdom: Decades of Decline 1945–65’, was published in 2020.

Paper 4 - Lisa M Rabin, George Mason University, Virginia, United States, The Film Text as Cultural Matrix in The New Cinema History.

This paper responds to the two, interrelated calls of the HoMER 2020 Conference to integrate the film text and comparative methodologies into The New Cinema History. When scholars from across disciplines of history, sociology and psychology inaugurated this new body of research in the early 2000’s, they were motivated in no small part by a desire to move beyond dominant psychoanalytic and cultural-analytic approaches in Film Studies overwhelmingly focused on the film text as the principal source of scholarly inquiry. In the last decade, scholars in ancillary fields of Film Studies (including Television, Digital Media and even Literary Studies) have developed new models for studying media reception that meld sociological, anthropological and historical approaches to the production and consumption of media with more traditional text-based interpretation.

In this paper, I will show how these models can invigorate our own research by describing my integration of the film text in three comparative research projects: 1) My study of teenage Italian American spectators in one neighborhood, 1930s East Harlem, where the use of melodrama and gangster films for performing social identity diverged strikingly across gender lines; 2) My research on the 1940’s educational uses of social documentaries across two neighborhoods in New York City, East Harlem and Black Harlem, which revealed that Black Harlem schools interpreted these films through lived experiences with structural racism, in contrast to East Harlem’s use of these films for abstract anti-racist teaching; 3) My study of the repurposing that US schools and campuses across the US and across historical periods made of mid-century educational “world films,” from hegemonic developmentalist approaches in the Social Studies to critical anti-colonialist appropriations in Latinx and African American communities. As I hope to show, the “reception turn” to the film text as a cultural narrative can help strengthen our comparative methodologies.

Daniel Biltereyst and Phillipe Meers, “New Cinema History and the Comparative Mode: Reflections on Comparing Historical Cinema Cultures, Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media 11 (2016), 13–32.

Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Publishing, 2014).

Anouk Lang, ed., From Codex to Hypertext: Book Subtitle: Reading at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century, (Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012,), Web, https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vk982.4.

Richard Maltby, Daniel Biltereyst, and Philippe Meers, eds.Explorations in New Cinema History: Approaches and Case Studies (Malden, MA & Oxford: Blackwell, 2011).

Lisa Rabin teaches film and media studies in the Department of Modern & Classical Languages at George Mason University (USA). She has published in Film History, The Velvet Light Trap and Illuminace, and a chapter with Craig Kridel on the Harlem Teachers Union’s film series in the recent Educating Harlem.