Exhibition and Distribution

Gregory Waller

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Exhibition and Distribution

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The operation of movie theaters, the dangers and appeals of the social experience of moviegoing, the combination of film and live performance, the need to legislate screening sites, the splendor of the picture palace, the possibilities of showing film outside the confines of a commercial theater—these topics have long attracted the attention of fans and journalists, studio executives, and diehard reformers. But the academic study of film exhibition did not fully take off until the 1980s, with revisionist studies of the silent era and a new interest in the broader cultural and social history of film beyond the production process. Much of this research, understandably, has focused on the movie theater, from the first storefront nickelodeons screening continuous programs of short films accompanied by and interspersed with some type of live musical accompaniment, to the freestanding megaplex, often marooned somewhere on the edge of town. But as the items listed in this bibliography attest, there is more to film exhibition than the movie theater and even the long tradition of the home as a site for watching movies. Exhibition has always been a key economic aspect of the movie industry, a target of legal battles, a site where racial, gender, and social class distinctions have been played out, and a zone through which nationally and internationally available, mass-produced entertainment enters specific localities. Not surprisingly, then, the works cited here examine film exhibition from a variety of scholarly perspectives, analyzing it as a modern business enterprise, cultural symbol, global system, local institution, and significant aspect of film history over more than a century. The emphasis is primarily though not exclusively on the situation in the United States. Particularly within the last fifteen years, the nontheatrical branch of film exhibition (e.g., in schools, churches, museums, and homes) has also begun to receive academic attention. However, distribution—the circulation of film from producer to exhibitor, another major source of profit and power in the film industry—has received nowhere near the same scholarly interest, though the works on distribution cited here suggest important lines of inquiry and point toward the range of new research still to be done.

Article.  9138 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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