The evergreens and mayflies of film history

The age distribution of films in exhibition

Authored by: Karel Dibbets

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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This study deals with the afterlife of movies in the underworld of film culture. Its aim is to shed new light on the fate of outmoded films that haunted cinemas in the 1920s and 1930s like the unquiet souls of the dead in search of a place to rest. As new cinema history seeks to develop an ever more complete understanding of the experience of cinema across the twentieth century, I will show in this chapter that old pictures used to have a substantial presence in movie theaters, not necessarily as the main feature, but still in competition with the steady supply of new films. Their numbers are buried in the long tail of demand curves where the dust of the market has gathered. Unlike most of the other decaying prints in the vaults, these vintage films had the power to survive and come back again and again. A lengthy track record became their most prominent feature.

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