The Glow in Their Eyes

Some of the most interesting work going on in early film studies (in fact, film studies in general) at the moment is the empirical work being done on audiences. There is an international organisation, HOMER, devoted to the subject, and Cinema Context in Amsterdam (subject of an earlier post) is one only example (albeit a spectacular one) on the work that is going on internationally. This call for papers for a conference is therefore particularly interesting:

The Glow in Their Eyes

Global perspectives on film cultures, film exhibition and cinemagoing

International Conference, Brussels, 15-16 December 2007

The aim of the conference is to review the current state of research in the history of moviegoing and film exhibition and distribution. We seek to bring together scholars dealing with these subjects from all over the globe. The growing number of case studies in local film history increases the need for comparative studies of cities, regions, and nations, while the relationship between micro and macro history(ies) is becoming a major issue for the field. The analysis of patterns and networks in film culture also calls for special attention to methodology. The conference aims to bring European perspectives on cinemagoing and film exhibition into dialogue with British, American and Australian research, and with research elsewhere in the world, in Africa, South America and Asia.

The conference aims to explore and map several crucial tensions arising from the issues of exhibition and cinemagoing, including:

  • The attention given to “top down” forces of industry, commerce and ideology as against “bottom up” forces of experience, consumption and escapism;
  • Contesting concepts of public and private space in media experience;
  • Questions relating to cinema’s integration into to the metropolitan experience of modernity, compared to its role in the construction of community in less urbanised and rural areas.

In line with the ECREA film studies section philosophy ( the conference approaches the phenomenon of cinema in a broad, socio-cultural sense: cinema as content, as cultural artefact, as commercial product, as lived experience, as cultural and economic institution, as a symbolic field of cultural production, and as media technology. On a methodological level, the conference is open to multiple approaches to the study of historical and contemporary cinema: film text, context, production, representation and reception. Cultural studies perspectives, historical approaches, political economy, textual analysis, audience research all find their place within this scope.

The conference also signals the completion of two major interuniversity research projects, one in Belgium (‘The Enlightened City. Screen culture between ideology, economics and experience. A study on the social role of film exhibition and film consumption in Flanders (1895-2004) in interaction with modernity and urbanisation’), and one in Australia (‘Regional Markets and Local Audiences: Case Studies in Australian Cinema Consumption, 1927-1980’). These research projects use a combination of oral histories, archival documentation, demographic data and media reportage and personal papers to examine the audience experiences and business practices of cinemas in Belgium and Australia.

The conference is supported by the International Cinema Audiences Research Group (ICARG), and will be the second international gathering of the Group’s work on the HOMER (History of moviegoing, exhibition and reception) Project, following the successful ‘Cinema in Context’ conference held in Amsterdam in April 2006. The conference will be preceded by an ICARG workshop.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers: Annette Kuhn (University of London); Richard Maltby (Flinders University)

Possible topics for papers are e.g.:

  • Film exhibition, cinemagoing and film experience in relation to theories of imperialism, postcolonialism, etc.
  • Long term tendencies such as the rise of cinemas in rural and urban environments, the boom of cinemagoing, the decay and subsequent closure of many (provincial and neighbourhood) cinemas and the rise of multiplexes
  • Tensions between commercial and/or ‘pillarised’ film exhibition, between urban and rural areas, and between provinces and regions
  • Institutional developments, geographical location and programming trends
  • Audience and film experiences in urban and rural contexts
  • A comparative international perspective on cinemagoing and exhibition
  • Diasporic cinemagoing practices
  • Representations in films of cinemagoing, film exhibition, film culture(s)
  • Reflections on methods: How to reconcile/combine large scale analysis vs in depth case study? How to link up national or regional databases on exhibition and cinemagoing?

A selection of papers presented on the conference will be published in an edited volume in 2008 (publisher to be confirmed). Please submit abstracts (500 words) with short bio to Gert.willems2 [at] and Liesbeth.vandevijver [at] before 6 July 2007. Speakers will be notified of acceptance by 31 July 2007.

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