chapter  6
50 Pages

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.