Chair: DR GWENDA YOUNG (University College Cork)

Room: Boole 1, UCC

Cinema is Dead. Long Live Cinema
Media Ecologies of Access and Denial
Dr Virginia Crisp (King’s College, London)

The title of this conference provocatively prompts us to question both the continued existence of cinema and whether tales of its demise have been wildly overstated. We are told in the call for papers that ‘the tools are changing, the speed is changing, the media is changing, everyone can do it, anyone can watch it, and even the messenger is changing within a changing society’; this would seem to suggest that the watchword for cinema at this present moment is change. While on the face of it such assertions seem quite reasonable, they also inadvertently presuppose an imagined past with a fixed and universal concept of the cinema when arguably this institution/practice/art form has always been multiple and varied. While the current media landscape is undoubtedly changing, if we consider but one aspect of global film culture, Hollywood, we see a history exemplified by change (e.g. the development of sound and colour, experiments with 3D and VR, expansion of exhibition sites into drive-ins and multiplexes, and the ‘revolutions’ facilitated by home video and the Internet). Therefore, I would contest that change is not so much an identifier of our current state so much as an inevitability of every art form where individuals and industries strive to innovate and develop practice/product. Change, as they say, is the only constant. In response to this line of argument one might suggest that the current rate of change is unprecedented and that technologies, platforms and practices are springing up and dying out with greater speed and regularity than ever before. However, I would contest that such assertions problematically presume that there somehow exists a universal experience of media production, distribution and consumption. To claim that rapid and ubiquitous change is a defining aspect of the current media landscape is to presume that this change is experienced unilaterally across the globe, that physical media have been displaced by the Internet, and that the world experiences universal access to limitless media choice. The reality is, of course, much more complex and huge disparities exist in relation to access to the means of media production and the experience of media content depending upon each individual’s culture, resources and location.

So, all this hyperbole about the death of cinema aside – rather than ask what has changed, this paper questions how the current contexts for film production, distribution and consumption shape the accessibility and diversity of film culture on a global scale. Rather than debate the existence or extent of changes that may or may not have brought about the ‘death’ of cinema as we know it, this paper will argue that there was no collective shared experience in the first place that might have been ‘killed off’ by recent changes in the global media landscape. Thus, this paper takes both a historical and global perspective on the issue and questions whether the current multiple mechanisms and modes of film creation, dissemination and access are enabling multiple voices to speak and be heard in a diverse and complex global media ecology.

Virginia Crisp is Lecturer in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London. She is the author of Film Distribution in the Digital Age: Pirates and Professionals (Palgrave, 2015), and co-editor of Besides the Screen: Moving Images through Distribution, Promotion and Curation (Palgrave, 2015). She is the co-founder, with Gabriel Menotti Gonring (UFES, Brazil), of the Besides the Screen Network (www.besidesthescreen.com).