Drive-in and grindhouse theatres

Authored by: David Church

The Routledge Companion to Cult Cinema

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138950276
eBook ISBN: 9781315668819
Adobe ISBN:


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The antecedents of cult film consumption are to be found as far back as the birth of movie fandom itself, but audience predilections for niche tastes in certain stars, genres, or cinematic variants have long been tied to specific theatrical exhibition spaces as well. From the lavish picture palaces whose opulent environs allegedly fostered a “cult of distraction” by mirroring dominant cinema’s own luxurious illusionism (Kracauer [1926] 2008), to the lowly storefront nickelodeons whose unruly urban spaces proffered immigrants, women, and other marginalized patrons an alternative public sphere (Hansen 1991), specialized theatres have long connoted specialized experiences for viewers variously perceived as distinctive, distracted, or subaltern. The 1970s-era exhibition of midnight movies, commonly associated with urban repertory theatres and university film societies, may hold an especially privileged place in cult film history for segregating esoteric films into less accessible viewing contexts, but drive-in and grindhouse theatres also occupy a significant place in the annals of cult spectatorship. Moreover, these alternative theatrical markets, primarily remembered today for their undisciplined audiences and exploitation film programming, continue to serve as (sub)cultural touchstones for the recirculation of cult cinema on home video and beyond.

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