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Session 7: Approaches: Analyzing Exhibition Practices

Paper 1 - Ross Melnick, University of California, Region Specific: How A Regional Analysis Explains Hollywood’s Exhibition Practices and Ownership in the Caribbean Between 1920-1950.

Hollywood’s exhibition operations in the Caribbean, like many of its efforts to operate global cinemas during the twentieth century, were made in opposition to exhibitors and politics that transcended island and/or national borders. While these investments differed from island to island and decade to decade, the Hollywood managers who oversaw this expansion applied a regional¬—not a global or national—strategy to an array of colonial and postcolonial territories.

This paper interrogates film studies’ and exhibition studies’ emphasis on the local, national, and/or global rather than on a regional analysis that can also produce enormously generative and interconnected research. A regional approach to studying the Caribbean, for example, highlights the colonial and postcolonial histories of this region and the interconnected histories of Jamaican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Trinidadian exhibition. Paramount’s purchase of the Saenger Amusement company, for example, reflected long-standing industrial, racial, and cultural bonds between cities like New Orleans, Louisiana and Kingston, Jamaica. Paramount also operated cinemas in Cuba and Jamaica from the 1920s to the 1940s, built tight distributor-exhibitor relationships in Puerto Rico, and outmaneuvered colonial and postcolonial protectionist policies against U.S. cinema ownership. Hollywood’s ignorance of regional politics and strife—from British Colonial pushback in Trinidad and Jamaica to rising anti-U.S. protests in both Cuba and Puerto Rico—made the Caribbean more of a bust than a boom for its ownership of local cinemas.

By exploring these attempts through a regional lens, rather than a national or even global study, we can better understand their political, cultural, and geographical distances and differences, as well as the industrial linkages between all four islands, reinforcing the importance of studying the interconnectedness of exhibition practices and companies through a regional approach.

James Burns. Cinema and Society in the British Isle, 1895-1940. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Megan J. Feeney. Hollywood In Havana: Film Reception and Revolutionary Nationalism In Cuba Before 1959. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 2008.

Naida Garcia-Crespo. Stateless Nation Building: Early Puerto Rican Cinema And Identity Formation (1897-1940) Dissertation. Ph.D. Dissertation: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, 2015.

Primnath Gooptar, “Indian Influences in The Development Of The Cinema Industry In Trinidad And Tobago (Excerpted From My Ph.D. Thesis. Impact of Indian Movies On East Indian Identity In Trinidad, 2013.).” PrimnathGootpar.com, 2014.

Ross Melnick is associate professor of film and media studies at UCSB. He is the author of American Showman (2012), co-editor of Rediscovering U.S. Newsfilm (2018), and co-founder of Cinema Treasures. He was named an Academy Film Scholar and NEH Fellow for his forthcoming book on Hollywood’s global exhibition operations.

Paper 2 - Sancler Eber, Fluminense Federal University, Dancers, Acrobats, Comedians, and Cross-Dresser Artists: stage attractions at Rio de Janeiro cinemas in the Early 20th.

Between the late 1900s and mid-1930s, films shared space with stage attractions in some Brazilian theatres. In Brazil, there is a little production of investigations focused on that relationship between attractions and movies. Thus, this paper seeks to contribute to a better understanding of that context using the trajectory of Darwin, The imitator of beautiful sex as its central bias. Darwin was a cross-dresser artist that performed between 1914 and 1933 in some cinemas of the Rio de Janeiro city as a singer and imitator of feminine gestures, using luxurious costumes. Darwin’s career peak came in the 1920s, when we found the largest number of records of his shows in the local press.

The paper analyses 1922-1924’s programmings where Darwin was inserted, focusing on the stage attractions announced. For that, we investigate programs published in local newspapers such as the Correio da Manhã. The study also presents results of a database we are producing about stage attractions in Rio, which points out: the spectacles genres (musical, comedy, circus, imitation, dance etc.), schedules and programming by each establishment; number of attractions in the face of film programmings etc. We also consider the location of the cinema-theatres seeking to understand the relationship between the programmed attractions and the local audience. Among the attractions we already have found, we can mention ballerinas, comedians, foreign singers, acrobats, musicians and illusionists. The theoretical basis of the research included authors such as Charles Musser (2004), Robert Allen (2006), Richard Maltby (2011) and Talitha Ferraz (2012).

ALLEN, R.C. The place of space in film historiography. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 9 (2), 2006, p. 15–27. FERRAZ, Talitha. A segunda Cinelândia carioca: cinemas, sociabilidade e memória na Tijuca. Rio de Janeiro: Multifoco. 2012.

MALTBY, Richard. New Cinema Histories. In: MALTBY, R., BILTEREYST, D., MEERS, P. Explorations in new cinema history: approaches and case studies. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, p. 03-40.

MUSSER, C. Towards a history of theatrical culture: imagining an integrated history of stage and screen. In: FULLERTON, J. (Ed.). Screen culture: history and textuality. Eastleigh: John Libbey Eurotext, 2004. p. 3-19.

PhD Student in the Postgraduate Program in Cinema and Audiovisual (PPGCine) of the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), Thesis Advisor Talitha Ferraz. Lecturer at FMU and UNICEP universities. Member of the Thematic Seminar “Cinematographic Exhibition, Spectatorialities and Projection Arts in Brazil” at SOCINE and in the Research Group “Modos de Ver”.

Paper 3 - Maria Luna, TecnoCampus Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Ramiro Arbeláez, Universidad del Valle, José-Carlos Lozano, Texas A&M International University. Following the traces of undisciplined cinema histories: The splendor and decay of Teatro Aristi in Cali, Colombia.

In this paper we explore the theaters of downtown in Cali, the third city of Colombia, as nodes that allow to reconstruct key moments in the history of film exhibition and audiences in the city. We will particularly focus on the splendor and decay of Teatro Aristi (1951-1997), which is relevant to illustrate the idea of film theaters as nodes of economic, cultural, and social transformation. We will explore the ideologies present in the programming strategies of this movie theater from its creation in the context of the modernization of the city in the 1950s until the silent but significant abandoning of the building. The case opens up questions related to the impossibility of maintaining heritage spaces in a city that is left without its cultural memory.

This paper marks also the starting point of our collaboration with the network ‘Cultura de la Pantalla’. Ramiro Arbeláez, co-author of this proposal, together with Andrés Caicedo and Luis Ospina was among the founders of the Cine Club de Cali a space related to the boom of cinephilia in the 70’s. Combining his perspective as an active academic and expert in the history of film exhibition in the city with our desire to revisit the social history of the disappeared cinemas in Cali, we aim to explore these cinemas as spaces of living memory. Our approach, therefore, aims to communicate, as a direct witness, a significant period in the social history of the transformation of the cinemas in our city. The project is part of a shared research interest in ‘undisciplined micro-stories’ that allow us to rebuild fragmented realities in the history of cinema. These cinema traditions are in need of being studied, systematized and disseminated in order to occupy their space within the multiple voices of a new cinema history. *This title follows the paper presented at HoMER@NECS (Amsterdam, 2018) focused on the space of Teatro San Fernando and the emergence of Caliwood.

Arias, M.F. (2015) Cine e identidades urbanas (Cali, Colombia, Décadas de 1940 y 1950). Estudios de Comunicación y Política 36, pp. 126-140.

Galindo, Y. (2016). Ramiro Arbeláez: Ansiedad de cinéfilo y paciencia de historiador. Historia y Espacio 46, pp. 311-327.

Luna, M. (2018) ‘Mapping imagined geographies. Following the traces of undisciplined micro-histories’. HoMER@NECS Conference. Amsterdam, 27-29 June.

Maria Luna is Adjunct Professor (TecnoCampus ESUPT UPF). Researcher in the Narratives of Resistance group. Member of the association of documentary: Alados and former coordinator of the academic seminar at Muestra Internacional Documental de Bogotá. Coeditor of the book ‘Territorio y memoria sin fronteras, nuevas estrategias para pensar lo real’ (2020).

Ramiro Arbeláez is Full Professor and former Director of the School of Social Communication at Universidad del Valle (Cali). Member of the research group CALIGARI. With Luis Ospina and Andrés Caicedo he was part of the intellectual and artistic boom of cinephilia during the 70’s in Colombia known as Caliwood.

José Carlos Lozano is Chair of the Department of Psychology and Communication and Professor of Media Theories and Research at Texas A&M International University (Laredo, Texas). He is a Regular Member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the Mexican National System of Researchers (SNI) in Category #3 and fellow at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León. Lozano is the author of numerous books and journal articles in the areas of mass and international communication. With Daniel Biltereyst and Philippe Meers he is coordinating the network of research teams ‘Cultura de la Pantalla’ in Mexico, Colombia, Spain and the US.

Withdrawn - Paper 4 - Stephen Putnam Hughes, SOAS, University of London, The Ethereal Theatrics of Cinema Space.

I explore the medium of air as a neglected area for understanding cinema audiences, cinema space and performance within the theatres of south India during the first decades of the 20th century. At this time there was a great deal of discussion, concern and complaint about the air quality in the cinemas of south India that was linked to Victorian notions of miasma- a noxious form of bad air that posed public health risks in the transmission of diseases. Through a comparative examination of historical sources from the local setting and other cities in colonial India and the British Empire, I will discuss how issues of ventilation, heat, odour and smoke were central to the theatrical staging of the cinema and cinema experience. This is part of an ongoing effort to explore phenomenological approaches to the historical study of social experience at the cinema.

When we think about the cinema theatre as a built space it immediately conjures a certain materiality- bricks, mortar, imposing facades, fixed seats, stairs, balconies and the like. As a purpose-built structure and architectural space a cinema theatre’s dense materiality suggests a kind of solidity, integrity and permanence. However, there is another material dimension to the theatrical space of the cinema that routinely goes unnoticed. Cinema buildings also include, enclose and admit an ethereal element that is not usually considered to belong to the building. As Connors has suggested, air is itself a kind of unobserved complement to any building that conducts light, heat, sound, odour and smoke: “Buildings, like utterances, are articulations of the air” (Connors 2004). So even though the air of a cinema theatre is so immediately evident and so little apparent that we tend not to think about it as part of the cinema-going experience, I argue that the ethereal element was central to how audiences experienced cinema.

Steven Connor, “Building Breathing Space” A lecture given at the Bartlett School of Architecture, 3 March 2004. http://stevenconnor.com/bbs.html Accessed on 25 November 2019.

Heidegger, Martin (1971). ‘Building Dwelling Thinking.’ In Poetry, Language, Thought. Trans. Albert Hofstadter. New York: Harper Collins, 145-61.

Stephen Putnam Hughes teaches in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS, University of London. Having lived and worked in Tamil speaking south India on and off over the course of the last thirty years, he has conducted research and published on various topics related to the social and cultural history of media, religion and politics- including film-going and cinema exhibition, the gramophone industry, radio, music, drama, dance, film songs and postcards.

Paper 5 - Alejandro Kelly Hopfenblatt & Clara Kriger, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Circulation of foreign and national films in a neighborhood of Buenos Aires in the late 1930’s.

At the beginning of the 1930s and the predominance of sound films, Buenos Aires, the capital and most important city in the country, was one of the main international markets for American films which represented more than 90% of local exhibition. At the same time, local theaters were screening Argentine films more frequently for an audience undergoing a series of radical transformations due to internal migrations and the consolidation of a vigorous middle class that changed its social and demographic structures. In this context, film exhibition developed throughout the decade a meandering capacity for business development that stabilized towards the end of the decade.

This paper presents an analysis of the circulation of foreign and national films in relation to a set of data constructed from the movie listings published in the newspaper La Nación. To this end, we analyze certain operations of the market during 1938, in a representative neighborhood of the city (La Paternal), as well as in key theaters in downtown Buenos Aires.

We propose a comparison of the commercialization dynamics structured between the center and the periphery, according to the design of the offer of each cinema, the repetition of films, the overabundance of titles and the constitution of packages, on one hand, and the predominant cinematographic genres and their potential audience, on the other. At the same time, we present a cross analysis of the exhibitor and distributor companies in the neighborhood chosen for the sample in order to differentiate the spectators’ preferences from the business-related obligations imposed by the distributors to the theater owners.

ITURRIAGA ECHEVERRÍA, Jorge (2015), La masificación del cine en Chile, 1907-1932. La conflictiva construcción de una cultura plebeya, Santiago de Chile: LOM; MALTBY, Richard, Daniel BILTEREYST y Philippe MEERS (Editors) (2011), Explorations in New Cinema History: Approaches and Case Studies, Oxford:Wiley-Blackwell; PALADINO, Diana (2020), Conformación del Negocio Cinematográfico en la Argentina. La comercialización y explotación de películas entre 1914 y 1918. Tesis de doctorado Universidad Nacional de La Plata. TREVERI GENNARI, Daniela; Catherine O’RAWE, Danielle HIPKINS, Silvia DIBELTULO and Sarah CULHANE (2021). Italian Cinema Audiences. Histories and Memories of Cinemagoing in Post-War Italy. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.