Film festival and cinema audiences: a study of exhibition practice and audience reception at Glasgow Film Festival

Dickson, Lesley-Ann (2014) Film festival and cinema audiences: a study of exhibition practice and audience reception at Glasgow Film Festival. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis takes the view that film festivals are ‘social constructions’ and therefore need social subjects (people/audiences) to function. Nevertheless, Film Festival Studies, with its preoccupation with global economics and/or the political nature of these events, has arguably omitted the ‘audience voice’ meaning much of the empirical work on offer derives from market research by festivals themselves. As such, there is little conceptual contribution on what makes festivals culturally important to audiences or the ways in which festival practice differs from, or synergises with, broader cinematic practice.
This thesis investigates exhibition practice and audience reception at Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) over three years (2011-13). The originality of the work is found in its contribution to the burgeoning field of Film Festival Studies and its methodological intervention as one of the earliest studies on film festival audiences. Using qualitative audience research methods, elite interviews and ethnography, it approaches film festival analysis through a nuanced lens. Furthermore, the positioning of the research within the interdisciplinary landscape of Film Festival Studies, Film Studies and Cultural Studies offers a broad context for understanding the appeal of ‘audience film festivals’ and the exhibition practices that exist within this often neglected type of film festival.
The thesis argues that Glasgow Film Festival continuously negotiates its position as an event that is both populist and distinct, and local and international. Through its diverse programme (mainstream and experimental films, conventional and unconventional venues) and its discursive positioning of programmed films, it manages its position as both a local and inclusive event and a prestigious festival with aspirations of international recognition.
More broadly, the thesis argues that festival exhibition is a multi-layered operation that strives to create a ‘total experience’ for audiences and in this respect it differs greatly from standard cinematic exhibition. Furthermore, I propose that – despite the fact that the raison d'être of film festivals is to present films – audiences privilege the contextual conditions of the event in their experiential accounts, articulating festival experiences (pleasures and displeasures) in spatial and corporeal terms. As such, the thesis serves to problematise Film Studies’ conventions of immersion and disembodiment by proposing that film festivals are predominantly sites of heightened participation, active spectatorship, and spatial and embodied pleasure.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: film festivals, film culture, cinema, audiences, reception studies, spectatorship, exhibition, programming, empirical methods, ethnography, participant observation, focus group researh
Subjects: 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: Boyle, Professor Raymond and Boyle, Professor Karen
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Dr Lesley-Ann Dickson
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5693
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2014 14:42
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2018 14:55

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