Beyond the Multiplex: Audiences for Specialised Film in English Regions

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Geography Politics and Sociology

Abstract

The aim of the project is to understand firstly how to enable a wider range of audiences to participate in a more diverse film culture that embraces the wealth of films beyond the mainstream; and secondly how to optimise the cultural value of engaging with those less familiar films, identified here as 'specialised' films. We will do this by investigating how audiences engage with and form around specialised films in four English regions. Audience formation is here understood as the processes of engagement with films that generate audience experiences. Drawing on industry definitions, specialised films are understood as films outside the mainstream, including small scale UK films, foreign language, documentary, archive and hard-to-pigeonhole films, and films with unconventional narratives, themes or cinematic techniques. Provision of mainstream film is good across England; however, provision of specialised films is low across the English regions outside London, which limits the opportunities for people to experience a more diverse film culture. We need to know more about the provision of specialised films in those regions, and how audiences form in relation to specialised film provision. Although audience reception studies have made audiences increasingly visible within academic debate and although the industry and policy makers also gather intelligence about audiences, little attention has been paid to the specific contextual relationships and interactions between media and people that generate and sustain audiences in English regions. Audience policy for specialised films takes a regional approach in attempting to improve provision and create a more diverse film culture. Our project aims to provide a firm evidence base for such policy developments by establishing a detailed understanding of how audiences form in their engagement with specialised films, the extent to which they are committed to film cultural diversity and the role that regional identity plays in that process. To achieve these aims requires an holistic approach that addresses the details of consumption and the opportunities to consume, namely the provision of film at a regional level, including online. The goal is both to advance scholarship and to provide concrete recommendations about how UK audience policies can be improved.

This focused, comprehensive and impactful project will explore the relationship between audiences and specialised films by examining the practices of venue-based and online film consumption, how different audiences experience specialised films, and the value of venues in the regional provision of film. It will also address the provision of specialised film by examining the industry processes of funding, production, distribution and exhibition (including online) of specialised films in four English regions. The audience research will involve a multilevel comparative study of audience formation in relation to specialised films in four English regions, collecting data that is in depth and at scale and using innovative digital humanities analytical methods. Following an earlier pilot study (http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/fhn), we have developed a highly experienced interdisciplinary team to undertake this project, comprised of academic experts in film studies, sociology, cultural policy, digital humanities and partners from film policy and the film industry. Through a partnership with the British Film Institute's (BFI) Film Audience Network and the Film Hubs (which organise provision of specialised film and foster audience participation regionally), the project is designed to have direct impact on the BFI's efforts to improve regional audience figures, widen film choice, and enhance the cultural benefits of specialised film. The project will therefore establish a strong relationship between the scholarly understanding of audiences and the development of official audience policies and industry practices in the context of regional provision.

Planned Impact

We aim to achieve impact within the British film industry through a programme of research that directly supports the work of the British Film Institute (BFI) Film Audience Network (FAN). FAN is composed of the nine Film Hubs which cover the whole of the UK. The aim of FAN is to position 'specialised film' as a recognisable, valued and important part of people's cultural lives. FAN seeks to achieve this by a) developing a larger, more diverse and sustainable audience for specialised film and b) creating a more confident sector for the distribution and exhibition of specialised film. Our project will help FAN and the industry sector address these two objectives by providing evidence (raw data and research outputs), tools for conducting their own analysis of the data (the online interface), and a methodology for conducting similar audience studies involving quantitative and qualitative data (the ontology). If funded, the project is timely because its findings will feed in to the BFI's next round of planning for the continuation of FAN beyond 2017. Our pathway to impact is targeted at the strategic level and the applied level.

The project is thus designed to have a direct impact on the BFI's efforts to improve regional audience figures, widen film choice, and enhance the cultural benefits of specialised film. More generally, the project is designed to inform and influence the specialised film sector, industry leaders and stakeholders through a series of impact activities that make use of the audience data and the search and visualisation tools and assist them with their decision making processes at regional and national levels. One aspect of the impact plan will be to run a series of workshops that use the project's digital deliverables as part of a Delphi Methodology to influence policy development. The project will thus establish a strong relationship between the scholarly understanding of audiences and the development of official audience policies and industry practices in the context of regional provision.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/P005780/1 01/06/2017 30/06/2018 £725,449
AH/P005780/2 Transfer AH/P005780/1 01/07/2018 31/05/2021 £498,125
 
Description The interim second year of a three year project findings include:

1. The socio-cultural profile of film audiences is varied, socio-economic background is not a strong determinant of film consumption, however the level of education features in the consumption of specialised film.
2. Film features in people's lifecourse in a rich and varied way: people engage with film for different purposes and use film eduction, entertainment and emotional support
3. People have rich interpretive resources in engaging with a range of different films that does not map onto formal education
Exploitation Route The BFI and the BFI film hubs including BFI Scotland as well as the independent film sector in Austria are engaging with our interim findings in terms of how they can develop audiences and they are keen to contribute to user testing of the research tool in mid 2019.
Sectors Creative Economy

URL https://www.beyondthemultiplex.net
 
Description We have started to develop impact in terms of the ways in which the BFI film hubs are consider the ways in which they engage with audiences and the methodologies they use to undertake audience research. Our project methodology has built in the pathways to impact from its inception. At the moment, the impact is at the level of raising awareness about out project and how out project might facilitate new ways of engaging with film. The impact is deepening as we discuss our data and present the emerging research tools. There is interest in both the findings and in the emerging audience studies tools. Film Hub North have offered to test the tools once they are further developed
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Creative Economy,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Me and my big data - developing citizens' data literacies
Amount £346,882 (GBP)
Organisation Nuffield Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 03/2021
 
Title Computational ontology using mixed methods research 
Description We have developed a computational ontology based on data we have collected in the field (interviews, film elicitation groups, and surveys). In computational terms, an ontology is a data model that describes the components, characteristics and interrelationships of a particular knowledge domain. Our ontology describes the domain of film, audience and film industry policy through three classes of information: entities, entity characteristics, and relationships between them. The data that contributes to our development of the ontology comes from our coding and analysis of: - 200 semi-structured interviews (50 in each region), encompassing people with all levels of film engagement. The interviews cover what people value about their cinema experiences and what influenced their choice when deciding what and where to watch. - Secondary survey data (DCMS 'Taking Part' survey 2016/2017 and BFI 'Opening Our Eyes' survey, 2011) and our own longitudinal survey (three waves, 5071 people followed by 547 followed by 317) in the four regions to understand patterns of film consumption through time. - 16 film-elicitation groups to explore how audiences made sense of films. - Policy documents and reports and 28 'elite' interviews with film policy makers, regional exhibitors, and distributors to understand the concerns and approaches to regional film provision, programming, funding and marketing. We are developing our computational ontology to bring these data together, and to map the complex interrelationships between the constituent elements in a new way. The ontology and data are then implemented as a graph database for querying and analysis. Further details are available here: https://talkinghumanities.blogs.sas.ac.uk/2018/10/18/why-use-an-ontology-mixed-methods-produce-mixed-data/ 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This approach enables us to develop a holistic account as it enables us to model, interrelate, and therefore interrogate consistently all our data, irrespective of its original format or type. By allowing us to directly compare various datasets, and to expand on relationships between them, the ontology provides a means of analysing our data in greater depth than a traditional mixed-methods approach would, and at to do so at various scales. It allows us to query the data, in order to identify patterns in the ways that audiences form, and to delve deeply into the richness and diversity of audience experiences. 
 
Title Audio Recordings of Interviews and Film Elicitation Groups 
Description Audio recordings of: 200 x Semi-Structured Interviews with Audience Members about their film and cinema preferences. 28 x Semi-Structured Interviews with Industry, Regional Providers and Policy Stakeholders about their film ad audience development policies. 16 x Film Elicitation Groups in which attendees watched film clips and talked about their meaning. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The audio recordings will not be made publicly accessible due to the presence of personally identifiable information and interviewee consent. However, anonymised transcriptions of all recordings have been created which will be made publicly accessible before the end of the project (see other dataset in this entry). 
 
Title Beyond the Multiplex Database 
Description The data from all datasets is being ingested into a single graph (Neo4js) database which models the structure of our film worlds ontology. The database currently contains approximately 150,000 nodes (of 57 types), connected by approximately 500,000 relationships (of 72 different types) - this is only data from source packages WP4 (Semi-structured Audience Interviews) and WP5 (Longitudinal Survey). It is anticipated that the final database will contain at least 500,000 nodes, with more than 1,500,000 relationships. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The database will be used for analytical querying by the research team using search and data visualisation. It will become publicly available before the end of the project. 
 
Title Longitudinal Survey Data 
Description Longitudinal survey data of people's film preferences and viewing habits, undertaken at 3 points in time. Survey 1 completed by 5071 people. Survey 1 completed by 547 people. Survey 1 completed by 317 people. The entire survey is available in a CSV format. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The survey data is being ingested into the project's database in line with the project's ontology for subsequent analysis alongside other datasets. The survey data will be made publicly accessible before the end of the project. 
 
Title NVivo database of coded transcriptions 
Description The raw qualitative data analysis files will be available in .nvp (for Windows) and .nvpx (for Mac) file formats. These are direct copies of the original QSR NVivo Projects developed in WP4 (Semi-Structured Interviews with Audience Members), WP6 (Semi-Structured Interviews with Industry, Regional Providers and Policy Stakeholders), and WP7 (Film Elicitation Groups). The files include all Sources (interview and film elicitation group transcripts) alongside the Nodes and Relationships applied to them throughout our qualitative data analysis. Alongside each .nvp/.nvpx file, we will also make available a .csv sheet with anonymised classificatory data on all research participants e.g. age, gender, employment status, and highest formal educational qualification. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The database will become publicly available before the end of the project. 
 
Title Transcriptions of Interviews and Film Elicitation Groups 
Description Full-text transcriptions of: 200 x Semi-Structured Interviews with Audience Members about their film and cinema preferences. 28 x Semi-Structured Interviews with Industry, Regional Providers and Policy Stakeholders about their film ad audience development policies. 16 x Film Elicitation Groups in which attendees watched film clips and talked about their meaning. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The transcriptions were encoded in Nvivo (see other dataset included int his submission) in line with the project's film ontology and ingested into the project's database for subsequent analysis alongside other datasets. The transcriptions will be made publicly accessible before the end of the project. 
 
Description BFI Film Hub press release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The BFI Film Hub FHN released a press release about the project and the project launch
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.beyondthemultiplex.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Press-Release-Beyond-the-Multiplex-Lau...
 
Description Presentation: Choice and Diversity in Film, BECTU Freelancers' Fair 2018, London: Royal Institution, 27-Apr-2018 by Peter Merrington, one of the project's researchers. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The seminar was called ' Choice and Diversity in Film': Tired of seeing the same kinds of films in cinemas? Are you a filmmaker frustrated by a few major distribution routes that are inaccessible? Join our panel to discuss what we see and why, and the opportunities to create more choice and diversity in the films on show. Our speakers will include Jemma Buckley, partnerships manager Independent Cinema Office, Jaq Chell, operations and development manager Cinema for All, Peter Merrington, Beyond the Multiplex and Toki Allison, Film Hub Wales.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bectu.org.uk/events/freelancers-fair
 
Description Project Launch:Beyond the Multiplex: Audiences for Specialised Film in English Regions 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The launch of Beyond the Multiplex: Audiences for specialised films in the English Regions (BtM) was designed to introduce the project to stakeholders and to provide an opportunity to discuss how the project can better support stakeholders in their day to day work. Keynote speakers set out the current specialised film context including the challenges and opportunities ahead and the support available.
Four facilitated discussions about audiences took place during the afternoon covering policy, exhibition, research and audience development.The event attracted 38 representatives from BFI, ICO, FAN, Showroom Workstation, Sheffield Doc Fest, Watershed, HOME, Broadway, Glasgow film, Film Northern Ireland, Film London, Audience Agency, Cinegi, Birds Eye View, universities, INTO film and many more.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.beyondthemultiplex.net/launch-beyond-the-multiplex-2/
 
Description Regional newspaper report about the project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Newcastle Chronicle published a half page report and discussion about the project called 'Cinema habits research' by David Whestone 24th October 2017. Citing BFI's Ben Luxford's quote at the launch and in the BFI FH ' Research such as this is essential to help us understand contemporary viewing habits
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk and discussion about the project to the BFI regional fFlm Hub in the South West of England on he 14th December 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The activity was a presentation and discussion about the project and approaches to audience development with the Film Hub members (FHSWC) at the Watershed Bristol. It fostered a discussion and audiences, audience experiences and who they form in the South West of England.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Two presentations at the main independent film sector national event. The industry conference is called 'This Way Up' and it was held in Liverpool on the 5th and 6th December 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We had two sessions at the This Way Up conference:

1. • Film Elicitation Workshop.
The Beyond the Multiplex project aims to understand how to enable a wider range of audiences to participate in a more diverse film culture. As such 16, UK-wide, film elicitation focus groups have discussed the significance of particular films on aesthetic, emotional, and intellectual levels, with participants offering a range of rich insights into the cultural value of the independent cinema, as well as the barriers to participation and engagement. This interactive session will involve a condensed version of such a focus group, before a discussion of some of the key findings of and reflections on the groups that have already taken place (https://thiswayupcon.com/new-events/2018/12/6/beyond-the-multiplex-film-elicitations)

2. Talk and Q&a: The 'Beyond the Multiplex: audiences for specialised film in English Regions' project seeks to understand how to enable a wider range of audiences to participate in a more diverse film culture. This session comprises of an introduction to the project and new research approach, present initial findings, followed by Q&A and discussion about the approach and findings to date. While the provision of mainstream film is good across England, in many places outside London there is limited opportunity for people to experience a diverse film culture. In response to this, our research involves a comparative study of audiences in four English regions, the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, North West and the South West. For each region we are collecting data about audience characteristics and practices, venues, screens, events and programming, and how films are interpreted; as well as data on film policy and regional demographics. To bring all this together we are using an innovative computational method that allows us to interpret and understand film audience data at a scale and depth in ways that have not been achieved before. The project aims to support those working in film audience development by providing evidence, methods and tools to develop more sustainable, diverse audiences for films beyond the mainstream (https://thiswayupcon.com/new-events/2018/12/6/beyond-the-multiplex-a-new-approach-to-audience-research)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://thiswayupcon.com
 
Description Update on research findings to Film Hub South West at their annual Christmas meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The talk and discussion focused on updating the BFI film hub South West about how the project was progressing. The focus was on how to understand the ways in which audiences engaged with film through the lifecourse, the ways in which audiences select venues, online consumption of film, what film in general means for people, what people like in particular about the film experience. From this the discussion opened up to debates about film as a social good and how different communities engage with film.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://watershed.co.uk/filmhub/