Cinema programmes map
Two sets of scanned cinema adverts from a week in 1913 and 1918, from local newspapers, plotted on to historical maps supplied by the National Library of Scotland’s API. These adverts represent between two-thirds and a quarter of all cinema venues in operation at the time. Also includes a layer listing 600 venues that have been documented before ca. 1916, based on data from the Scottish Cinemas Database confirmed by the contemporary trade press.

Timeline of Scottish film renters to 1918
Brief profiles of distribution companies operating in Scotland, linking to adverts and trade press items.

About the project
About me

Introduction to the project

The thesis, entitled Film Distribution in Scotland before 1918, uses geo-database tools as a way to collect and analyse data from a range of archival and print sources, and to engage with historiographical questions about the emergence of cinema as an institution in a non-metropolitan context. A relational database was built to document the places of film exhibition and the geographical variation in programming practices. This database, working alongside more detailed archival case studies, constitutes the foundation for broader discussions about the commercial, social and ideological roles of film and cinema.

The analytical framework incorporates notions such as the commodity nature of film and the tension between different conceptions of the social role and position of cinema within Scottish communities. The emergence of institutional practices and structures in Scotland is thus described as occurring in a complex field of forces where two main polarities appear as prominent: Firstly, a tension between decentralised, local practices and the increasingly globalised operations of the film industry; and secondly, a shifting balance between regularisation and distinction, or the ordinary and the extraordinary.

The recalibration of this equilibrium defines two moments in the history of the early Scottish film tarde: First, the creation and expansion of the Scottish market and popular demand for moving pictures, showing how different forms of film supply enabled the coexistence of various types of itinerant exhibition, and then of a gradual transition to fixed-site shows. The shift towards different methods of trade, such as exclusive renting, is seen as a reformulation of the commodity status of film, associated with the emergence of feature programming. This had consequences for Scottish distributors and exhibitors, revealing geographical variation in their adoption, as well as incipient forms of resistance to the emerging institutional practices.

About me

I am a post-doctoral research assistant with the AHRC-funded project, ‘Early Cinema in Scotland, 1896-1927’, at the School of Culture and Creative Arts of the University of Glasgow. I am also a graduate of Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogota.

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Last updated: 24 October 2012