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Session 19: New Historiographies: Distribution & Exhibition

Paper 1 - Francesco Di Chiara, Università eCampus, & Paolo Noto, Università di Bologna, A Backward Vertical Integration? Film Exhibitors as Financers and Enablers of 1950s and 1960s Italian Cinema.

The economic and institutional history of Italian post-war cinema traditionally tends to use American industry as a touchstone to describe the national context and to focus on the production stage and on producers as the key elements of the film value chain, to the detriment of other subjects, namely distributors and exhibitors. Devoid of a vertical integration system comparable to that of the Hollywood majors, the Italian film industry appears as a loosely structured system, and the activity of distributors and exhibitors is normally described as that of simple intermediaries and/or outlets for the release of finished products. What emerges from our investigation is the pivotal role played by networks of local distribution companies, generally spawned from first run theatres of major Italian cities, in the financing of a diversified array of successful films ranging from lavish star vehicles (Beautiful but Dangerous, Robert Z. Leonard, 1955) to genre films (Son of Samson, Carlo Campogalliani, 1960) and finally to art cinema (L’avventura Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960). A particular form of vertical integration that works in an opposite way than traditional Hollywood suggesting the presence of a diffused, grassroots form of package-unit system. In this perspective, by pre-acquiring distribution rights through their activity as local distributors and exhibitors, theatre owners transcend their role as suppliers and take control of the production stage, by becoming enablers of output diversification and of the experimentation of new formula in a key phase of Italian film history.

Richard Maltby, The Standard Exhibition Contract and the Unwritten History of the Classical Hollywood Cinema, in Film History (25) 1-2, 138-153, 2013

Ramon Lobato, Shadow Economies of Cinema, BFI 2012 Marina Nicoli, The Rise and Fall of Italian Film Industry, Routledge 2016

Francesco Di Chiara is associate professor at Università eCampus (Novedrate, Italy). His research interests include (but are not limited to) film genres, European cinema and the history of the Italian film industry.

Paolo Noto is associate professor at the Università di Bologna. His work is mainly focused on post-war Italian cinema, genre theory, film criticism, and the history of Italian film industry.

Paper 2 - Paul S Moore, Ryerson University, ‘The Dramatic Tenses of Wordless Images’: Archie L. Shepard’s Moving Pictures and the Melodrama of Early Cinema Publicity in North America. )

How would our understanding of cinema change if we made distribution its central facet, rather than production or exhibi¬tion? Advertising would become the primary text addressing audiences, largely displacing the film on screen. Preserved newspapers stand as an archive of the public address of cinema, collectively documenting how films were described to heighten anticipation in advance promotions. This chapter reexamines the periodization of early vs. classical cinema in terms of a transi¬tion from sensory to sensational rhetoric in newspaper publicity for traveling cinema across the United States, 1901 to 1907. Early in this period, press coverage describes the experience and effects of films in terms of the sense of vision, aligned with spectatorial eyewitness, as much for the theatrical wonder of trick films as for the “visual newspaper” of actualities. Later in the period, a more immersive paradigm has emerged to emphasize thilling pathos, enraptured wonder, and convulsive mirth. Singer (2001) pinpointed affinities between melodrama and silent film, but my analysis of newspaper publicity isolates a pivotal figure in Archie L. Shepard’s Moving Pictures and a key moment in 1904, at the start of Shepard’s dominance. Shepard was briefly the most prominent film exhibitor in the United States. His shows were often pinpointed as the paradigm for the nickelodeon programme, and he was the only exhibitor to operate shows both in metropolitan cities and touring smaller places over vast regional circuits. Shepard was also an early promoter of films as “wordless dramas” and “silent plays,” boasting that cinema had found its own footing, apart from vaudeville chaser and lyceum lecture. Publicity and promotion frames the public interaction with cinema by premediating the experience, and an analysis of newspaper advertising can stand alongside form analysis of film production. In reviving the reputation of a lost, central agent of the mainstreaming of movies as a field of entertainment, my analysis aims to add depth to our understanding of the emerging place of narrative in the cinema of attractions.

Ilka Brasch and Ruth Mayer (2016) Modernity Management: 1920s Cinema, Mass Culture and the Film Serial. Screen. 57(3): 302-315.

Charles Musser & Carey Nelson (1993) High-Class Moving Pictures: Lyman H How and the Forgotten Era of Traveling Exhibition, Princeton UP.

Ben Singer (2001), Melodrama and Modernity: Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts, Columbia UP.

Helen Stoddart (2015) The Circus and Early Cinema: Gravity, Narrative and Machines. Studies in Popular Culture 38(1): 1-17.

Ravi Vasudevan (2017) Registers of Action: Melodrama and Film Genre in 1930s India. Screen 58(1): 64-72.

Paul Moore is Associate Professor of Communication at Ryerson University in Toronto, and past President of the Film Studies Association of Canada. His histories of the movie theatre business in North America have focused on the relation between cinema audiences and newspaper publicity, appearing as chapters in Explorations in New Cinema History and A Companion to Early Cinema. Recent work maps early movie showmen’s transnational “circuits of cinema,” also theme of the HOMER 2017 International Conference on the History of Movie Exhibition and Reception, which he hosted in Toronto.

Paper 3 - Konrad Klejsa, University of Lodz, “It can and it will be kept under wraps as long as it is deemed to be necessary by the Council: Distribution of films from the West in People's Republic of Poland, 1968-1980.

Cinema distribution in the communist countries was made up of the contradictions between the propagandist needs and actual demand of the audience: though movies from Eastern bloc prevailed quantitatively, the records of cinema admissions show that the hunger for movies from capitalist countries could not have been satisfied by the scarce supply.

The paper – drawn from findings form the NCN funded project “Film distribution and exhibition in Poland, 1945-1989” – shall consist of two parts. First, the structure of film distribution in Polish People’s Republic shall be briefly explained. The statistical figures – derived from the database which lists all full-length movies bought for Polish cinema distribution after the II WW (the website shall be launched in early Spring 2020) – allow a better understanding of the extent to which audiences in communist countries have been deprived of the access to many important movies from the West.

The second part of the paper will discuss a case study of Stanley Kubrick’s films. Only two of them have been distributed in the Polish People’s Republic – “Spartacus” (released in Poland in 1970, ten years after its production) and “2001: A Space Odyssey” which hit the screens in Poland in 1973. The latter title had been approved by the Council of Cinema Repertoire (body responsible for selecting movies to import) as early as 1968 but the censorship office withhold 2001 from distribution for five additional years, mostly for political reasons.

Apart for these two movies, “A Clockwork Orange” as well as “Barry Lyndon” had also enjoyed one-time screenings in Warsaw and Lodz, with some interesting oral histories documenting the events. As for “The Shining” and “Full Metal Jacket”, Polish viewers could read about them in the film magazines but the movies themselves were available only via illegal VHS copies (usually with German dubbing and amateur voice-over translation).

OSTROWSKA D., Foreign Popular Cinema in Socialist Poland’ . In: Popular Cinemas in Central Europe: Film Cultures and Histories. Ostrowska D., Pitassio F., and Varga Z. (eds). I.B. Tauris, 2017.

KRAMER, P .’A film specially suitable for children’: The Marketing and Reception of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). In: Family Films in Global Cinema: The World Beyond Disney. Brown, N. & Babbington, B. (eds.). IB Tauris, 2015 SKOPAL, Pavel a Kyrill

KUNAKHOVICH. Cinema Cultures of Integration: Film Distribution and Exhibition in the GDR and Czechoslovakia from the Perspective of Two Local Cases, 1945-1960. In Skopal, P., Karl, L. (eds). Cinema in Service of the State: Perspectives on Film Culture in the GDR and Czechoslovakia 1945-1960. Berghahn Books, 2015

Professor at Department of Film History at University of Lodz. His research interests focus on the history of post-1945 Polish cinema, audience studies and German-Polish film cooperation. Currently he supervises the research project “Film distribution and exhibition in Poland, 1945-1989” (2017-2022; 240.000 EUR), funded by the Polish National Science Centre.

Paper 4 - Oksana Maistat, Humboldt University of Berlin, From Soviet Film Programming to Audiences: Possibilities and Limitations.

From Soviet Film Programming to Audiences: Possibilities and Limitations. This paper is focused on the process of collecting and processing data on Soviet urban film programming during the New Economic Policy, 1921-1928, when the control over distribution was not yet centralized (sovietfilmspace.ru). The studies of Soviet films are mostly concerned with examining film texts, which is grounded on the “formalist” traditions (Eisenstein, Sklovsky, Tynyanov etc.) also originating from 1920. However, the data on film programming are long time awaited to allow for the discussion of audience choices and the comparative availability of particular film. Even though the data becomes gradually available, it requires a long process of historical and statistical analysis, which raises a range of methodological issues. I want to indicate the problems we encounter trying to reconstruct the early Soviet programming as a database and the lacks that challenge the passage from programming study to the analysis of movie-going cultures and audiences.

The 1920s are seen as a period of free trade and consumption, but it is also a period of not-functioning management, unsystematic documentation and archiving. As a result, newspapers appear to be the most reliable source covering the film exhibition in biggest cities, whereas the complete information on the cinemas in rural areas seem to be irretrievable. Therefore, based on film programming, only a definite category of Soviet audiences might be described.

In my paper I will first describe the national context of film programming, the instances involved in shaping a particular film program. Second, I will analyze what part of the exhibition network and programming data is reconstructable and how it can be used in research.

Taylor R. (2013) Seeing Red: Political Control of Cinema in the Soviet Union. In: Biltereyst D., Winkel R.V. (eds) Silencing Cinema. Global Cinema. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137061980_7

Youngblood, D. J. (1993) Movies for the Masses: Popular Cinema and Soviet Society in the 1920s. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Turovskaya, M. (2010) Kinoprozess: 1917–1985. Predislovie, in: Kinovedcheskie zapiski. Vol. 94. URL: http://www.kinozapiski.ru/ru/print/sendvalues/1214/ (accessed 03.10.2020).

Oksana Maistat is a PhD candidate and DAAD fellow at the Humboldt University of Berlin and MA-student of digital data management at the Potsdam University of Applied Science. Her research interests concern the variety of Soviet cinematic and cultural phenomena from 1920s, which correspond with the terms of entangled history.

Paper 5 - Isabella Goulart, Centro Universitário FMU-FIAMFAAM, Cinema and the Intellectual Elite in Latin American: A Comparative Analysis of Film Criticism in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina.

Cinema and the intellectual elite in Latin American: a comparative analysis of film criticism in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina This project proposes a comparative analysis of film criticism during the 1920s and 1930s in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil, the countries that were the major Latin-American markets for Hollywood films, via three magazines: Argentinian Cinegraf, Brazilian Cinearte, and Mexican El Universal Ilustrado. Although the US relations with Latin American countries through cinema have been fairly examined within the scope of film production and analysis, there is a lack of research on the role that film criticism has played in the construction of this history as an intellectual mediator for Latin American audiences, as well as transnational studies on how those processes work to connect or distinguish Latin American film cultures from one another. Therefore, this study aims to approach the magazines and the intellectual elite associated with the film industry in Latin America. By including a section on social thought, it’s intended to assess whether, on some level, the intellectual-critics who wrote for the magazines were engaged in national identity projects that converged with social thought in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico in other areas, such as Art, Culture, and Anthropology. Some intellectuals excelled in the organization of the editorial projects of those publications: namely Adhemar Gonzaga and Mário Behring, Cinearte’s editors-in-chief, Carlos Alberto Pessano and Carlos Noriega Hope, respectively directors of Cinegraf and El Universal Ilustrado. Given that the critics had similar intellectual journeys in many respects, the study will also aim to identify common elements from the perspective of the magazine editors about their respective countries.

BORGE, J. 2005. Progress of Hollywood: Latinamerican Cinematography Criticism, 1915-1945. Beatriz Vierbo Editora.

MORALES, I. 2017. Cinegraf Magazine (1932-1937): Specialized Criticism, Conservative Modernism and the Search for a National Image. Perspectivas de la Comunicación, v 10, n 2.

NAVITSKI, R. & POPPE, N. (editors). 2017. Cosmopolitan Film Cultures in Latin America, 1896-1960. Indiana University Press.

NAVITSKI, R. 2016. ‘Ese pequeño arte que tanto amamos’: Remediating Cinema in El Universal Ilustrado. Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, Tomo 50, 2.

Isabella Goulart researches Brazilian film culture in a transnational context, holds a PhD and a M.A. from USP and is a Coordinator and Professor at FMU | FIAM-FAAM. She coordinates the thematic seminar Cinema in Brazil: History, History Writing and Survival Strategies for the Brazilian Society for Cinema and Audiovisual Studies (SOCINE).