Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication


This thesis explores the relationship between cult films and audiences in an Australian context. As a topic that has received little prior scholarly attention, several strands pertaining to the study of cult film are unpacked, including attempts to define the term ‘cult’ by both popular and academic studies. Relevant studies in the related fields of genre, audience and film spectatorship are explored and rearticulated in terms of the findings from interviews, questionnaires and participant observation carried out with the organisers, archivists and audiences of cult film in Australia.

My contention is that cult film fandom in Australia represents more than just a fleeting interest; that in the cases highlighted in this thesis, cult film fandom creates a type of community, one that leads to social involvement outside of the cinema. This engagement recalls earlier forms of sociability, the activities of which can be thought of as nostalgic, such as craft groups and get togethers, and themed ‘retro’ discos. The formation of this type of ‘cult community’ is reliant upon the organisers of these screenings, for whom this longing for the past, and for home, motivates them to provide not only a physical place within which to screen their chosen films, but a more abstract ‘space’ that relates to Foucault’s notion of heterotopic, or ‘other’ spaces.

In conclusion, I argue that contrary to already existing studies of cult film universally, and cinema going more generally, Australian cult film practices involve a complex relationship with both the present and the past. The resulting connection between individuals in a unique social setting can be thought of as a shared identity project, as illustrated by the many forms of ritual behaviour that ensue. Thus the examination of cult film practices in Australia shifts the attachment of the adjective ‘cult’ from the text to the fan, from cult films to cult audiences.