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The Audience in Mind: women audiences and film programs in 1910s Mannheim Germany

  • Cinema programming, the composition of films to make a specific "show," remains a neglected way to research the relation between audiences and film form. As a mode of exhibition " advertised, promoted, and circulating in the public sphere even before an audience is gathered " the program can be seen as an active social relation between cinema managers and their audiences. Changes in the composition of film programs, in my case the years before the First World War in Mannheim, Germany, are thus not taken as part of a teleological evolution of film form, but instead reveal emerging practices of cinema-going, a changing relation among showmen, distributors, audiences, and the city they are all part of. The category of "the audience" becomes a compliment to narrative, economic and technical influences. Selecting the city of Mannheim further allows me to draw upon the pioneering German sociological study of cinema audiences, conducted there by Emilie Altenloh in 1911 and 1912. Thus, I am able to compare her survey data to the film programs that were actually advertised and offered to the public at the time, and also include knowledge of the social history of the city, to approximate a description of the historical audiences she studied. Here I follow the findings of Miriam Hansen and Heide Schlüpmann, who both stress the importance of the female audience in Imperial Germany. I account for a reciprocal relation between female spectators and the film industry- local programming practice to describe the transitional period from the short film programme of the "cinema of attractions" to the dominance of the long feature film, i.e. from 1906-1918. Looking closely at the advertised programmes of Mannheim I show that almost all of the first multiple-reel feature films deal with women- topics, i.e. with the fate and fortune of women, concluding that the presence of women in the audience helped established the long feature as central to the institutionalized cinema program. The film program and the specific feature films represented female identity on the screen, responding to the perceived wishes and needs of the women who gathered as audiences. Taking this "program analysis" approach, because it provides a synopsis of the social relation between audience, industry, and film form, is a valuable tool for comparing the social place of film comparatively, across many films, and potentially across regions, countries, and cultures.

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Author:Andrea Haller
Document Type:Conference Proceedings
Date of completion:2006/01/04
Publishing institution:Universität Trier
Release Date:2006/01/04
Tag:Kaiserreich; Kinoprogramm; Stummfilm; frühes Kino; weibliches Kinopublikum
Imperial Germany; audience studies; early cinema; female cinema audience; programming strategies; silent film
GND Keyword:Deutschland / Geschichte 1871-1918; Film; Filmprogramm; Filmtheater / Publikum; Weibliches Publikum
Institutes:Fachbereich 2 / Medienwissenschaft
Dewey Decimal Classification:7 Künste und Unterhaltung / 79 Sport, Spiele, Unterhaltung / 791 Öffentliche Darbietungen, Film, Rundfunk

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