Beyond the Multiplex: Interim Findings Report - October 2019

Hanchard, M. , Merrington, P. and Wessels, B. (2019) Beyond the Multiplex: Interim Findings Report - October 2019. Project Report. Beyond The Multiplex.

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Our research has brought together analyses of non-mainstream, specialised film audiences and the context in which they engage with film in four English regions. Specialised film and audience development in the UK is primarily supported by the BFI through national audience programmes and the regional activities of the Film Audience Network made up of a series of regional Film Hubs. The current focus on the development of regional audiences established as a priority by the Film Policy Review Panel in 2012. The BFI has worked to fulfil this objective, primarily through its funding programmes, however several challenges persist. For example, current challenges include the limited access to non-mainstream theatrical film in some regional areas, the under-development of independent distribution in the UK, risk-averse programming, and uncertainty about the role and impact of online streaming. Despite these challenges, film is still the most popular and widely consumed cultural activity in the UK. In our analysis we have found eight distinct groupings of film taste or preference (based on genre) including one group with a specific taste for art house and foreign language films. We find this group is more likely to contain people who are highly educated, affluent, and urban living. By contrast, we identified a less educated and affluent group that like all types of film - except art house and foreign language ones. We also found that comedy, as a film genre, has the broadest appeal. Overall, we found that educational level and income are the greatest predictors for film genre preferences, but that film taste is not strongly determined by these factors. Alongside preferences, we examined audience experiences and practices. We found that the meanings people ascribe to watching films varies with genre, medium/screen type, venue type, and/or whom a film is watched with. In this, we identify six distinct audience types, each framed by size (the number of people watched with) and associated with different forms of social interaction. We also considered the relationship between each audience types and their access to film locally. In this, we found large variations in audiences’ level of provision and access to a diverse film culture. This ranges from cities with good provision of a wide range of films, screens, and venue types, through to areas with low provision, where communities have very limited access to theatrical film. To develop our understanding of regional audiences for specialised film, we undertook a survey to track the film-watching activities of people who engage with specialised film over a six-month period. From this, we can identify patterns in what people watch, how, with whom and what they value about the experience of watching specialised films. Overall, we find that people tend to watch films with others more often than watching alone, irrespective of the screen or medium used, and that audiences place value on the shared experience of film in different contexts. Across the regions, we find that film engagement is valued in similar ways. We considered how audiences interpret the narratives and visual styles of specialised films. We found that people draw on their life experiences, cultural and media resources, and their own education to make sense of the forms, narratives, storylines, and topics of films. We find that our participants, of any educational level, identify with a range of themes within film narratives at different formal and emotional levels. However, we found that participants relate to films in similar ways through their own life experiences in different ways, e.g. the portrayal of romance and sexual intimacy, the troubles of parenting depicted in different places and cultures, the experience of work, and other experiences expressed through film. Overall, we find that film is highly valued culturally and socially across the four regions but note that it varies between audience types. For some, watching a film brings a sense of personal wellbeing, while for others it features as a central aspect of their social lives. Meanwhile, some turn to film to build connections with others, or for self-development through learning or being exposed to new experiences. In this, we find that watching films in our regions is a social and cultural activity, that involves negotiation and discussion amongst people to select which films to watch. People value the social aspects of sharing film and being part of an audience as well as the specific cultural value of engaging with films. People often discover specialised film through the recommendations and/or choices of trusted others, ranging from friends, family, and colleagues through to online reviews.

Item Type:Research Reports or Papers (Project Report)
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wessels, Professor Bridgette and Merrington, Dr Peter and Hanchard, Dr Matthew
Authors: Hanchard, M., Merrington, P., and Wessels, B.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Publisher:Beyond The Multiplex

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
304999Beyond the Multiplex: Audiences for Specialised Film in English RegionsBridgette WesselsArts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)AH/P005780/2S&PS - Sociology