This workshop, part of the “Community Building at the Cinema” research project, aims to explore the persistence of travelling cinema practices throughout the twentieth century. So far, historiography has mostly focused on the history of travelling cinema and its entrepreneurs in Western Europe before the First World War. With this workshop and according to the project’s decentralising ambition, we would like to take into consideration recent scholarly works and move beyond this well studied space-time to uncover the wide range of travelling cinema practises in lesser-investigated historical and geographical contexts. Indeed, in recent years, increasing attention has been devoted to non-commercial travelling cinema for propaganda or advertising purposes as well as commercial mobile screenings long after the implementation of the (historiographically) dominant model of fixed-site cinemas.
This workshop will explore travelling cinema practises on a global scale in their historical, material and cultural diversity and will look at the ways in which they interfere with the communal identities of audiences. How communities - understood as porous, linguistic, ethnic, religious groups, crossed by various social and cultural dynamics - structured travelling cinema audiences and, conversely, how travelling cinema screening venues created, reinforced or perturbed community identities? The time span adopted goes from the 1920s to the end of the 20th century, up to the moment when television got rooted in the daily spectatorial practices and the VCR player developed (a point in time that differs according to local media histories).
Potential topics include (but are not limited to):
Travelling cinema shows can take multiple forms including commercial screenings and non- commercial screenings, religious, political, educational or corporate film shows. What specific practices are linked to travelling cinema economy (film smuggling, old and damaged prints, etc.)? Commercial travelling cinema is best documented in rural areas, but was it totally absent from all urban contexts? How and to what extent could travelling cinema operators adapt their shows to fit into the local and communal contexts? What leeway had they on screenings, programmes and itinerary? And how their status as civil servants, employees or entrepreneurs affected this leeway?
By definition, travelling cinema entails screening films in a diversity of venues, not necessarily designed for this purpose (multifunctional halls, cafes, restaurants, outdoor venues like market places) and sometimes implies carrying a mobile theatre, tent, or booth. What are the specificities of the travelling cinema screenings with regard to the different venues they invested? In cases where these venues were not available and open-air screenings impossible, did travelling cinema invest private homes? What did this situation change for the viewers? How did the presence (or not) of the projectionist in the “auditorium” as opposed to fixed- sites venues where s/he is hidden in the booth interfere with the screening? Did this presence favour film lecturing and initiate different kinds of mediation with audiences?
Throughout history, travelling cinema has involved a broad variety of means of transportation (cinema-vans, trains, steamers, animal-drawn vehicles, etc.). What are the specific material and logistical aspects of travelling cinemas and their impact on the social experience of cinema for audiences? What difference does it make to look at cinema culture from the vantage point of itinerance? Can we still speak of “cinema-going” when it is cinema that comes to the audience?
This one-day workshop will be held in-person at the Universite Paris-Nanterre on October 19, 2022. We invite abstracts for presentations. The working language of the workshop is English.
Please submit 300-word proposal with a short bio-bibliography (max. 150 words) by May 15, 2022 to the organisers: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
We aim to notify those who submit a proposal of the outcome by June 1st, 2022.