An Independent PhD Research for Film societies and Community Cinemas


The aim of this PhD project is to assess the cultural impact of film societies in the sector, specifically to contemporary film societies 2010-2020 in England and its regions. The research investigates non-theatrical exhibition relating to the cultural and financial impact of film societies (licence fees and membership scheme). Film societies and community cinemas are having unmeasurable impacts and influence on film viewing habits and types of exhibition. This study aims to determine how film societies and community cinemas have developed and expanded in the last ten years due to changing audience tastes, demographics and changes in film distribution for specialised cinema. It seeks to understand the financial contexts for community exhibition. It takes into take into account the financial obligations that marginalize the cultural power of film societies.

A review pf the literature on film societies suggests that there are some reports for film societies but not much academic research has taken place in the UK. An evaluation completed on documents and statistical reports about film societies such as the yearly reports of the Cinema for All statistics and BFI FAN reports shaped the two main surveys.

There has been a growing interest in non- theatrical film exhibition, but the vast majority of research relating to cinema going is still in commercial theatrical exhibition, and not non-theatrical exhibition. My research investigates how mass media promotion can have an effect on film society audiences and taste-building. The research examines relationships between financial constraints and film programming choices.
The researcher Aysegul Epengin (the director of the Portsmouth Film Society) aims to uncover how programming influences audience profiles, and what scope exists for audience growth among different types of community exhibition. I discuss the role of community exhibition in ‘taste development’.

The research considers the following questions:
-What institutional and operational challenges exist in the film societies’ non-theatrical film exhibition.
-How industry marketing affects the tastes of the film society and their audience
-How Cinema For All works and analyse film societies’ performances in Britain
-Why financial considerations constrain film programing choices, and how this effectively marginalises film society programming.
-A reassessment of film societies’ activities and their financial viability and success based on film title choice and analysis of the demand/taste for film titles.

Methods and choice of analysis: The research will use mixed Methods: Quantitative and Qualitative

First stage: The online survey for least 300 film societies and analysis of the data
Focus participation group: film societies programmer’ and members’ perspective for films as a product of community cinema.
Two main surveys established to see patterns relationship with the research topic and create data. This will include interviews with a selection of committee members and programmers of film societies to examine behaviour and attitude.

Each survey takes 5 to 10 minutes. Survey links for participators:

Members (Any film society/ community cinema members can take the survey):

Operators (Only by invitation)

Second stage: 30 Semi-structured confidential interviews with film society operators and members with mixed methods. 5
publishable official interviews, 3 case studies. 

Semi-structured interviews with members of a sample of film societies will focus on organisational structures, membership scheme and financial constraints.

Third stage: Desktop research for media data on the subject defined on survey and interviews data. Correlate taste with film society members/operators age, background, diversity etc. Informal group discussions with members and film society operators and the observations.

Analyse the data and set questions for the interviews. Collect and process relevant data in SPSS and combine the data in Nvivo and develop the PhD chapters for theses.

Considered PhD Chapters:
1. Overview: Background, Research Context with Methodology
2. Literature Review
3. Organisational structure and financial constraints with economic Impact
4. Programming, film selection and taste
5. Members inside the ‘consuming culture’ and taste.
6. Investigation of the influence of the subscription business model on ‘Subscription video on demand’.
7. Conclusion:
a) How cultural engagement is affected/influenced by economic limitations?
b) Key Findings
c) Issues for Further Research
d) Cinephilia’s new home at the future

The researcher will find answers on problems in the community cinema that exhibitors must be aware of the forces, like mass media, technological changes, economic problems and also to know community cinema industrial histories. Community film exhibition with enhanced levels of audience participation is undoubtedly under-researched. Their practices must be acknowledged and changes in audience behavior must be recorded.

The research projected kindly supported by Cinema For All and BFI Education&Research.

Please share with your contacts and people who would like to participate.PhDinfoForm2

Ayşegül Epengin (BA, MA)
PhD Candidate

School of Film, Media and Communication
University of Portsmouth
Eldon Building
Winston Churchill Avenue

Study days: Tuesday and Wednesday
Phone: 02392845180


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