Kino-Barons and Noble Minds

Specifics of film exhibition beyond commercial entertainment

Authored by: Lucie Česálková

The Routledge Companion to New Cinema History

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138955844
eBook ISBN: 9781315666051
Adobe ISBN:


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Nontheatrical cinema research seems to be caught in the trap of its own name. For a long time, it was too simply understood as “the other” – a deviation associated with noncommercial exhibition of non-Hollywood products mainly on sub-standard format (16 mm). However, as is evident from more detailed research, film circulation and consumption practices, film distribution policies and strategies in their true complexity rather defy the description in strict opposites. Various national contexts show, for different reasons, a variety of dynamic relationships between these areas. The convergence of two strong trends in contemporary film and media studies and the recognition of their mutual usefulness for understanding cinema history in its plasticity have contributed to a distortion of these long-traded ideas. Research into the new history of cinema is increasingly focused on the recognition of exhibition practices and film audiences out of the city centers – in rural areas and in small towns. Among other things, this allows us to recognize the importance of communities and other nontraditional actors engaged in exhibition, and their strategies in distorting standard exhibition practices (Aveyard, 2015; Thissen and Zimmerman, 2016). Useful cinema research, often undertaken in parallel with new cinema history but with another primary set of research questions, has explored the circulation of educational, industrial, advertising, scientific films, which cannot readily be examined in terms of popularity or profit, but which naturally put cinema within the wider frameworks of education, industry, business, and science (Hediger and Vonderau, 2009; Acland and Wasson, 2011; Florin, de Klerk, and Vonderau, 2016). A level of functional cooperation between these two areas of research has contributed well to our understanding of the deeper dynamics of relations between dominant and marginal forms of cinema, and between theatrical and nontheatrical exhibition in its political, economic, and sociocultural dimension. This will develop further once cooperation extends beyond the range of cinemas of Western countries, where relations between the commercial and noncommercial sectors of the economy have evolved in a way completely different from that in Eastern European countries. In this regard, Czechoslovakia shares a number of features typical of small cinema, but it is also a good example of the differences that arose in the specific political, economic and technological context of a Central European country in whose cultural and economic thinking the influences of East and West mixed.

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