Dr Judith Thissen

UNDERSTANDING REGIONAL PATTERNS IN CINEMAGOING

Dr. Judith Thissen

In terms of cinema attendance, the Netherlands have always been outside the mainstream of European film history. During the first decade of permanent film exhibition – a crucial phase in cinema’s development as a mass medium – the movies failed to gain a firm foothold in Dutch society, especially outside the nation’s largest cities. The peculiarities of Dutch film culture have been frequently associated with the alleged Calvinist morality of the Dutch, regardless of their actual religious background. Others have associated the low  interest in the cinema with pillarization (Verzuiling), that is, the breakdown of Dutch society into a Catholic, Protestant, socialist and liberal pillar. In this view, low cinema attendance resulted from the fact that the new film medium did not fit into the existing platforms of public life which were segregated along pillar-lines. While both explanations hold some credibility, I argue that we need a more fined-tuned analytical framework to assess the  dynamics at work in local film cultures. The starting point is my ongoing research on moviegoing in the industrialized countryside: 1) the mining district in South Limburg and 2) the north-Eastern part of Groningen (agro-industry and ship building). I am interested in these regions because they stand out for their high density of film exhibition venues and seats. How to explain this break away from the dominant national pattern? To answer this question, I combine a qualitative analysis of the local cultural infrastructure (exhibition venues, programming, municipal regulations etc.) with a quantitative analysis of census data that allow me to define the demographic make-up of the population (income, profession, religious affiliation, age etc.). Grounded in the outcome of this empirical study, I seek to elaborate a more generalized theoretical model for understanding regional patterns in cinemagoing.

Dr. Judith Thissen is Associate Professor of Media History at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Her interests reach across fields into cinema studies, social history and cultural economics. Her research on cinemagoing in the United States and the Netherlands has been published in Film HistoryTheatre SurveyKINtop, and Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis as well as in numerous edited collections  including Going to the Movies: Hollywood and the Social Experience of Cinema (2007), Kinoöffentlichkeit/Cinema’s Public Sphere, 1895-1920 (2008),  Beyond the Screen: Institutions, Networks and Publics of Early Cinema  (2012) and Audiences Defining and Researching Screen Entertainment Reception (2012).

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