Document Type

Journal Article


Although we are used to thinking of cinema in terms of ‘pictures that move’, film history has always meant by this the movement of film through the camera and projector, and the appearance of movement on the screen. Until recently, historians have paid less attention to the ways in which film prints move around their territories of distribution, and the implications of this in terms of the social mobilisation of particular audiences to view them. Histories of early cinema-going acknowledge a period characterised by travelling showmen or itinerant exhibitors, but imply that this mobility was transformed into stasis by the appearance of fixed or permanent venues. Another way of looking at this, however, is to suggest that until the appearance of digital distribution, cinema has always had an itinerant dimension. By this I mean that the chief operational challenge of the cinema business has been to match the physical distribution of product with the means of licenses, records of motion pictures screened, and the nature of their promotion, but would try to explore the relationship between these and the local history of roads, railways, lunar timetables, and flooding. What models exist which might allow us to situate cinema not only within its social context, but also to understand the strongly geographic underpinning for those social formations, without lapsing into environmental determinism?