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More than Movies: Art House Cinemas in the Digital Age


More than Movies: Art House Cinemas in the Digital Age

Fech, William (2021) More than Movies: Art House Cinemas in the Digital Age. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis offers a cultural and industrial mapping of US-based art house cinemas—small theatrical exhibitors specializing in foreign, independent, documentary, repertory, or non-commercial studio film—since the digital transition in projection technology near the turn of this century. For much of their history, art house cinemas offered so-called “sophisticated” film-going experiences catered to appeals of cultural distinction and cinephilia. But in reaction to the challenges posed by the costs of digital projection, which threatened to and in some cases did close small exhibitors, the sector sought to re-imagine itself. Many art houses restructured under nonprofit organizations with operational mandates far different from those of their predecessors. This study attends to these reconfigurations.
The following chapters draw from a rich tradition of exhibition scholarship, theories of cultural taste-making, and on-the-ground discourses among art house administrators. I consult film programs, promotional material, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and industry data reports in positing a reconceptualization of art houses as multi-purpose cultural institutions, not mere receptacles for leisure and encounters with foreign-language film. Central to this reworking has been Art House Convergence, a resource network of art houses and their allies that has promoted professionalization, nonprofitization, and politicization of the art house space since 2006. I also focus on two case studies: The Hollywood Theatre in Portland, Oregon, and FilmScene in Iowa City, Iowa—theatres whose transformations over the last 15 years speak concretely to the larger trajectory of the sector. Where distinction and cinephilia once reigned as pillars of these exhibitors, dynamic and diverse approaches to programming, community-centric services, and left-liberal cultural projects have ascended to the fore. By creating an aggregate portrait of a new industrial common sense, comprised of changing practices and ideas about cinema’s place in cultural formations, this project points to a pressing need to view art houses differently than previous models allow and to provoke a rethinking about their role in film culture today.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Fech, William
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Film and Moving Image Studies
Date:November 2021
Thesis Supervisor(s):Wasson, Haidee
ID Code:989900
Deposited By: WILLIAM FECH
Deposited On:16 Jun 2022 14:52
Last Modified:16 Jun 2022 14:52
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