Cinema Audiences and Society

Film Consumption 46

Regulation and Censorship 53

Conclusion 59

Summary 60

The relationship between films and their viewers is central to Film Studies. '[I]t is through the existence of an audience that film acquires social and cultural importance' (Jostein Gripsrud, quoted in Hill and Church Gibson (1999), p. 203). It is precisely because of this powerful relationship that the film industry has been subject to censorship and regulation from its earliest days. Similarly, there has been an interest in the impact that a film has upon its audience from the turn of the twentieth century onwards, as well as in who constitutes that audience. The study of these matters falls into two main areas: audience research and spectatorship. In this chapter, we shall be considering the 'audience' rather than 'specta-torship' (the academic study of how individual viewers/subjects relate to and decode film texts), which is examined elsewhere in this book.

This chapter is divided into two parts. In the first section, 'Film Consumption', we will examine contemporary film demand and consumption in the UK, encouraging the reader to reflect on her/his own viewing habits. In the process, both the commercial and cultural significance of film consumption will be considered. Film consumption includes not only cinema-going, but also video, television and other situations of film viewing. In the second section we will consider how regulation and censorship have affected both producers and audiences and impacted upon the relationship between them, particularly in imposing limitations. As we shall see, the history of both topics - audiences and censorship/regulation - follows a similar pattern, as both have fluctuated and changed according to political, social, economic and cultural circumstances.

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