Film distribution before the digital revolution

“Imago, studi di cinema e media”, 21 (Bulzoni editore): history, research, methodologies, case studies, between the second post-war period and the end of the 1990s

Ā«Cinema distribution is still a little studied object: halfway between production studies (the final phase of the industrial processes of financing and promotion of the film), consumption studies (the organization of the cinema system as primary places for the fruition of films and the strategies for the involvement of the audience) and the cultural analysis of the film product (the relationship between texts, paratexts and contexts of reception), distribution is still an object of research with elusive practices that cannot be systematized, above all due to models of analysis that are still scarcely tested and elaborated in the academic field.

In this direction, something has been done in recent years: both thanks to some reconstructions of the system of organization of cinemas in specific local contexts; and to an in-depth study of the practices of audience involvement with the filmic text in a historical perspective; and, finally, thanks to a recent research project of national interest (PRIN 2015) on the international circulation of Italian cinema. The latter, in particular, by introducing the concept of “circulation” within the dynamics of international diffusion of Italy’s image abroad, has allowed an actualization of transnational practices of non-linear audiovisual distribution in Europe.

In the wake of these studies, which testify a new vitality of the theme of film circulation, the new dossier of “Imago” would like to represent a first attempt to model these research practices around the specific theme of film distribution. The idea behind this monographic issue stems from the need to propose an initial historical reconstruction of the dynamics of film distribution in Italy, both of domestic and foreign films.

Furthermore, the aim is also to highlight the distribution practices of national film products in specific international contexts, through a specific analysis of the subjects involved in the foreign sales and promotion strategies of Italian cinema. The proposal to restrict the field of investigation to Italy stems, first of all, from the need to trace common trends in distribution studies regarding the history of Italian cinema.

Furthermore, the desire to privilege the historical context (with some, in our opinion, necessary exceptions) is the result of the need to study a specific period (between the second post-war period and the end of the 1990s) in which distribution still represents the backbone of a system of dissemination of the cinema product that will be shaken by the digital revolutionĀ».

Read here the introduction of the special issue of “Imago, studi di cinema e media”, 21, edited by our scientific advisor Damiano Garofalo, Andrea Minuz and Emiliano Morreale.

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