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This study aims to examine the advent of cinema as public entertainment at the time of the Mexican revolution in the capital city of a state which was integral to the conflict’s gestation, and whose historical records were largely affected by it. In the absence of print media and commercial documents, we consulted municipal records, such as enactments, correspondence, public health reports and tax ledgers to ascertain information regarding the economic actors in the city, the role of different venues, the audience’s experience and the powers at play in the configuration of the city’s relationship with cinema as a form of public entertainment. Our findings are presented in the form of maps and timelines describing the types of venues used for film projection, the social practices around them, their interactions with other forms of public entertainment in the city such as circus tents, theater and novelty acts, and the process of consolidation into dedicated venues and concrete cinema-going practices. Our goal is to elucidate the power relationships at play in the incorporation of cinema to the public entertainment map of the city, and the role it had in maintaining the momentum of everyday life during decades of social upheaval, to further our understanding of how power structures at the township level incorporated the new technology of cinema into the city’s public entertainment offer to maintain top-down order. This represents the first stage of the project “Screen Culture in Saltillo: Ideology, political economy and audiences in interaction with social change”, a part of the ‘Cultura de la pantalla’ network and the Cinema City Cultures network, which aim to examine cinematic practices and experiences through empirical research inspired by a new cinema history approach.
Biltereyst, D., Meers, P., Lotze, K., & Van de Vijver, L. (2012). Negotiating cinema’s modernity: strategies of control and audience experiences of cinema in Belgium, 1930s-1960s. In Daniël Biltereyst, R. Maltby, & P. Meers (Eds.), Cinema, audiences and modernity : new perspectives on European cinema history (pp. 186–201). New York, NY, USA: Routledge.
De los Reyes, A. (2005). Historia de la vida cotidiana en México 5. Siglo XX. La imagen, ¿espejo de la vida? Cd. de México: Colegio de México, Fondo de Cultura Económica.
Horak, L. (2016). Using digital maps to investigate cinema history. The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digital Humanities. Falmer: Reframe Books, 65-102.
Maltby, R., Biltereyst, D. & Meers, P. (2011). Explorations in New Cinema History: Approaches and Case Studies. Hovoken, NJ: Blackwell Publishing.
Brenda A. Muñoz is a professor at Communication Sciences Faculty of Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila, Mexico. Her research focuses on diversity communication for social development, audience studies and alternative contents on emergent media. She is a Doctor in Humanistic Studies, Doctor in Social Sciences: Communication Studies and a member of Mexican National Researchers System.
Antonio Corona is a professor at Communication Sciences Faculty of Autonomous University of Coahuila, Mexico. His research focuses on spatial practice, culture and identity, othering and game studies. He is a Doctor in Humanistic Studies with a specialty in Communication and Cultural Studies as well as a member of Mexican National Researchers System.
Philippe Meers is a professor on film and media studies at University of Antwerp, Deputy-director at the Visual and Digital Cultures Research Center, Chair at the Centre for Mexican Studies and the Antwerp Doctoral School. He is also co-founder of the Cinema City Cultures and ‘Cultura de la pantalla’ networks.
Miguel Sánchez Maldonado is a professor at Communication Sciences Faculty of Autonomous University of Coahuila, Mexico. His research analyzes health communication processes, the social construction of masculinities and diversity communication for social development. He is a Doctor in Human Studies and a member of the Mexican National Researchers System.
In February 1913, the rights to distribute the Italian film Quo Vadis? in the United States were auctioned to the highest bidder. For his winning $38,000 bid, George Kleine was awarded fifteen copies of the film (directed by Enrico Guazzoni for Cines) and exclusive rights to distribute it in the U.S. for two years. The high selling price stunned many, including one industry observer writing in Motography who asked, “Honest now, if you owned Quo Vadis, what would you do with it?” Echoing the film’s title, the observer’s query was fundamentally about space, asking “where the film would be going” to find the audiences it would need to insure a sufficient return on investment. In the end, Kleine used spatial practices like roadshows and states rights licensing to make Quo Vadis? one of the first blockbuster success stories in film history. Wildly popular throughout 1914 and 1915, this big budget film paved the way for public acceptance of dollar-and-up ticket prices, and it earned Kleine over one million dollars for his efforts. Moreover, the film developed into something of an “evergreen,” with persistent screenings carrying on into the 1920’s at small theatrical venues, as well as in schools, churches, and ethnic enclaves, before slowing down in the face of a 1924 remake of the film by Unione Cinematografica Italiana that proved to be a critical and commercial failure. In accounting for the film’s success and historical significance, historians have mostly focused on the cultural and aesthetic legitimacy afforded by its realistic and spectacular representation of antiquity for modern audiences, focusing on the film’s narrative and cinematographic adaptations of the story’s roots in literature and painting. This paper seeks to complement this work with a spatial analysis of the film that maps the historical geography of its U.S. circulation.
Abel, Richard, Americanizing the Movies and “Movie-Mad” Audiences, 1910-1914, University of California Press, 2006
Blom, Ivo, “Quo vadis? From Painting to Cinema and Everything in Between,” Leonardo Quaresima, & Laura Vichi (Eds.), La decima musa : il cinema e le altre arti : atti del VI Convegno DOMITOR, VII, Udine, Gemona del Friuli, 21-25 Marzo 2000, pp. 281-296.
Dibbets, Karel, “The Evergreens and Mayflies of Film History: The Age Distribution of Films in Exhibition,” in The Routledge Companion to New Cinema History, Routledge, 2019, pp. 329-340.
Jay, Jacqueline, “The Use of the Past to Shape the Present: Shifting Depictions of the Ancient World in Twentieth Century American Cinema,” Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. 12(1), pp. 61-78, 2019.
Scodel, Ruth and Bettenworth, Anja, Whither Quo Vadis?: Sienkiewicz’s Novel in Film and Television, Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2009.
Jeffrey Klenotic is an Associate Professor of Communication Arts at the University of New Hampshire. He is a founding member of the History of Moviegoing, Exhibition and Reception (HoMER) project and the principal developer of Mapping Movies, a web-based Geographic Information System for exploring cinema’s social and spatial history.
Joris Ivens’ The Spanish Earth (1937) is among the most extensively studied political documentaries of the 1930s. While it has been immensely “successful” as an object of scholarly inquiry – considered the formative model for politically committed documentary and a testament to Hemingway’s political commitment – from another angle, The Spanish Earth is an immense failure. Despite positive press, a successful New York premiere, and an endorsement from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the film failed to secure a wide theatrical release. Ivens bitterly recalled years later that The Spanish Earth was relegated to “the limited channels of release [that] we thought we could get out of this time.” Ivens’ lament begs the questions: What were these “limited channels?” Where did the film go? Using the film’s exhibition receipts from the Margaret Herrick Library, this presentation maps the film’s trajectory along a loose network of independent theaters, film societies, colleges, and partisan fundraising groups. While Ivens’ disappointment is emblematic of the left’s thwarted ambitions to bring progressive works to American screens, the film ultimately found audiences in 30 states, Puerto Rico, and abroad. In excavating a canonical film’s overlooked distribution, this presentation heeds HoMER’s call to integrate scholarly traditions. This presentation uses digital mapping tools to visualize The Spanish Earth’s global trajectory, excavating the long forgotten temporal and spatial patterns and infrastructure of the historically neglected nontheatrical sector. Moreover, in mapping the film’s trajectory, it argues that the distribution of political documentaries must supplement textual analysis if we are to envision documentary as a forum for social and political exchange. That is, film text, screening context, and industrial consideration must be combined to fully interrogate documentary’s impact.
Joris Ivens, The Camera and I. New York: International Publishers, 1969.
Ramon Lobato, Shadow Economies of Cinema: Mapping Informal Film Distribution. London: BFI, 2012.
Gregory A. Waller, “Search and Re-search: Digital Print Archives and the History of Multi-sited Cinema,” The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and Digital Humanities, ed. Charles R. Acland and Eric Hoyt. Sussex: REFRAME Books, 2016: 45-64.
Thomas Waugh, “‘Men Cannot Act before the Camera in the Presence of Death:’ Joris Ivens’s The Spanish Earth,” in Documenting the Documentary, 2nd edition, eds. Barry Keith Grant and Jeannette Sloniowski. Detroit: Wayne State Press, 2014: 122-41.
Tanya Goldman is a PhD Candidate in Cinema Studies at New York University. Her dissertation considers the political and cultural impact of media distribution via the career of labor activist-turned-nontheatrical distributor Tom Brandon (1910-1982). Her work has appeared in Cineaste, Décadrages: Cinéma, Feminist Media Histories, and Film History, among others.
This paper aims to present the research “Street-level Cinema in Juiz de Fora and other audiences: mapping experiences in the city”, the problematizations that guide the work development and its methodology, which consists of mapping old cinemas in the city of Juiz de Fora and creating itineraries for visiting these spaces, developed based on the digital application and database created for this purpose. The development of this study aims to contribute to the deepening of studies around the history of cinemas and cinema-going practices, especially those performed outside the hegemonic axes of Brazilian metropolises. The investigations that guide this research are linked to the perspective of New Cinema History (Biltereyst, Maltby and Meers, 2012), a interdisciplinary research framework that considers the equipment, cinema room and the practices of the audience, studying them in a variety of contexts: sociocultural, urban, geographical, historical, economic, political, marketing and ideological, local and global. In this sense, this study aims to highlight other possibilities of knowledge and analysis of idiosyncrasies about what constitutes the spacetime relationships between the cities and the historic cinemas, the sociability and subjectivities developed in urban centers, and the cinema-going memories.
Juiz de Fora, a city of about 500 thousand inhabitants, southeast of the State of Minas Gerais, was the first city of Minas Gerais to host a cinematographic exhibition, still in the nineteenth century and during the 1950s; owned at least 17 cinema rooms, according to survey of cinema histories, through extensive research involving archives and oral history reports. This investigation is being developed in an interdisciplinary way through a partnership between the research group Communication, City and Memory – PPGCOM/UFJF, the Cultural Patrimony Laboratory – ICH/UFJF and the University of Porto, in Portugal.
FREIRE, Rafael de Luna. Cinematographo em Nictheroy: história das salas de cinema de Niterói. Niterói, RJ: Niterói Livros; Rio de Janeiro: INEPAC, 2012.
HUYSSEN, Andréas. Seduzidos pela memória: arquitetura, monumentos, mídia. Rio de Janeiro: Aeroplano, 2000.
MALTBY, Richard. New Cinema Histories. In: MALTBY, Richard; BILTEREYST, Daniël; MEERS, Philippe (orgs.). Explorations in New Cinema History: approaches and case studies. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2011.
BRUM, Alessandra; MELO, Luís Alberto Rocha; PUCCINI, Sérgio (orgs.). Cinema em Juiz de Fora. Juiz de Fora: Editora UFJF, 2017.
Theresa Medeiros is a professor and researcher of the School of Communication of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora. Member of the Communication, City and Memory Research Group and the Cultural Patrimony Laboratory. Christina F. Musse is professor of the Postgraduate Program in Communication at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora and leader of the Communication, City and Memory Research Group.
This study aims to look at the history open air cinemas in Istanbul and how they started to disappear with the urban modernisation of the city in 1970s. Open-air cinemas were located at small neighbourhoods and addressed middle and lower classes who do not have access to major movie theaters at the city centers. With no hierachical settings, low ticket prices, cheap or free facilities of toilet, food and drinks, they were democratic urban spaces where all social classes could experience watching a film in a peaceful collective environment. These cinemas linked cinema-goers with the city and helped them make sense of the rythms of urban life. Open air cinema was the only and cheapest entertainment of the period that attracted audience from all ages, different ethnic backgrounds and social classes. As a result of a rapid and uncoordinatded economic boom in early 50s, mass urban renovation projects transformed public spaces into private housing estates. The destruction of open-air neighbourhood cinemas and the emergence of multiplexes in city centers resulted in the social exclusion of certain social classes. This study explores the relation between the transformation of open-air cinemas and the urban reconstruction projects that took place in Istanbul in 1960s and 70s. It suggests that the transformation of cinema spectatorship has strong connections with urban changes and needs to be analyzed through an interdisciplinary approach.
Coş, Nezih. 1969. “Türkiye’de Sinemaların Dağılışı.” (Distribution of Movie Theaters in Turkey) Akademik Sinema (2), 19-27.
Gül, Murat. 2012. Emergence of Modern Istanbul: Transformation and Modernisation of a City. I. B. Tauris.
Habermas, Jürgen. 1989. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. MIT Press.
Hansen, Miriam. 1991. Chameleon ad Catalyst: The Cinema as an Alternative Public Sphere. In Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.
Türeli, İpek. 2008. Istanbul, Open City: Exhibiting Anxieties of Urban Modernity. University of California, Berkeley.
Sezen Kayhan is a joint PhD candidate in the University of Antwerp and Koç University. Her research focuses on the relation between urban studies and film production and exhibition. Her writings have appeared in the journals: Television and New Media, Space and Culture, Journal of Visual Culture, New Perspectives on Turkey.
872 Arch Ave.
Chaska, Palo Alto, CA 55318