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Film distribution in Scotland before 1918

Vélez-Serna, María Antonia (2012) Film distribution in Scotland before 1918. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis proposes an empirical approach to the history of film distribution and exhibition in Scotland before 1918. It deploys geo-database tools as a way to collect and analyse data from a range of archival and print sources, and to engage with historiographical questions about the emergence of cinema as an institution in a non-metropolitan context. The first part introduces the theoretical and methodological premises that underpin the project, situating it in relation to growing academic interest in early distribution and local film practices. A research method is outlined, involving the construction of a relational database documenting the places of film exhibition and the geographical variation in programming practices. This database, working alongside more detailed archival case studies, constitutes the foundation for broader discussions about the commercial, social and ideological roles of film and cinema. The analytical framework incorporates notions such as the commodity nature of film and the tension between different conceptions of the social role and position of cinema within Scottish communities. The emergence of institutional practices and structures in Scotland is thus described as occurring in a complex field of forces where two main polarities appear as prominent: Firstly, a tension between decentralised, local practices and the increasingly globalised operations of the film industry; and secondly, a shifting balance between regularisation and distinction, or the ordinary and the extraordinary. It is in terms of this fluid equilibrium that two overlapping moments in the history of the early Scottish film trade are described in the second and third parts of the thesis. Part II follows the creation and expansion of the Scottish market and popular demand for moving pictures, showing how different forms of film supply enabled the coexistence of various types of itinerant exhibition, and then of a gradual transition to fixed-site shows. It starts by exploring the continuities between film exhibition and existing cultural forms such as lantern lecturing and the music hall. It highlights the significant level of agency exercised by local exhibitors and renters within an open-market model that allowed the outright sale of films, and which also established a commercial interdependency between city-centre and peripheral exhibition. Part III argues that, once the market reached a relatively stable state with the regularisation of supply and the growing standardisation of the film product, the increasing concentration of capital and power in larger companies (both in the regional and the global scale) marked a shift in the balance of forces, away from unrestricted circulation and towards exclusivity. This is seen as a reformulation of the commodity status of film, associated with the emergence of feature programming. The consequences of the new textual and industrial trends for the Scottish distributors and exhibitors are considered, revealing geographical variation in their adoption, as well as incipient forms of resistance to the emerging institutional practices.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: early cinema, film distribution, Scottish cinema, cinemagoing, film exhibition
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Caughie, Prof. John
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Maria Antonia Vélez-Serna
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3605
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:09
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/3605

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