The British cinema audience
The cinema audience is a notoriously difficult research area.1 We may be able to calculate how many people attended a particular cinema in a week, year or decade, whether they were male or female, their age and even get a sense of their favourite films, but it is far harder to assess the impact of the films they saw, either individually or collectively. Yet despite the chal lenging methodological problems presented by audience research, many theorists and academics have offered different approaches to the question of the relationship between quantitative and qualitative methods. This chapter w ill examine these approaches and identify the documentation which they have generated throughout the twentieth century, focusing on the following major areas:
• studies which were prompted by the spirit of social investigation in the 1920s and 1930s;
• studies which sought to go beyond these by making direct contact with the film industry for the production of data and anthropological insights; and
• new trends in audience research which are based on textual analysis, statistical data, memory work and oral history.