When the History of Moviegoing is a History of Movie Watching, then what about the Films?

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Abstract

In this chapter, we would like to address the question to what extent the new cinema history can benefit from looking at individual films, but also how a more film-centered approach can be enriched by integrating a perspective that takes into account its particular contexts of distribution, exhibition, and reception.1
After a brief look at Tom Gunning’s reflections on the role of individual films in film history, we will argue that every film is indeed a distinct product and thus can merit the cinema historian’s attention. We will look at three examples from the period before the First World War in order to explore in more detail how the focus on individual films can be made productive for a history of moviegoing, which, after all, is also a history of movie-watching. In all these cases, the issue of the films’ popularity and audience appeal – easily to establish in the first one, seemingly contested for the other two examples – will play a central role. So here we are not so much interested in the film as an aesthetic object (even though it can be important to consider it as such), but rather in the various documents that tell the story of when, where, and how it was seen.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to New Cinema History
EditorsDaniel Biltereyst, Richard Maltby, Philippe Meers
Place of PublicationLondon, New York
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter25
Pages319-328
ISBN (Electronic)9781315666051
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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