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In Search of Italian Cinema Audiences in the 1940s and 1950s: Gender, Genre and National Identity

This AHRC-funded project aims to explore the history of Italian cinema audiences and offers a unique opportunity to uncover a hidden history that is fundamental to Italian and European identity. Professor Danielle Hipkins, Senior Lecturer in Italian in the Department of Modern Languages, is a Co-Investigator on the project, working with colleagues at the University of Bristol and Oxford Brookes University.

It is the first of its kind to use qualitative and quantitative data to examine the nature of cinema-going in Italy in the post-war period, and to trace national and regional patterns in cinema exhibition and audience preferences.

The project will draw on the support of six non-profit organisations in Italy. Three of these (ANASTEBlumedia and Universita' della Terza Eta') will help the project team to distribute 1000 questionnaires amongst groups of Italy's over-65s, in order to gather statistics about cinema-going in the 1940s and '50s. Then, drawing on the survey's findings, Memoro (an organization that records and disseminates online video interviews with elderly Italians) will conduct 160 interviews on cinema-going, with a carefully chosen sample of interviewees from across Italy.

The project will ask participants questions about genre, stars, and gender, and place these subjective accounts in the context of our archival research, aided by two statistical bodies: SIAE (Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori) and AGIS (Associazione Generale dello Spettacolo). It will then examine how preferences expressed by interviewees relate to box-office figures and contemporary reviews. Readers' letters and contemporary diaries will also play a crucial role in the project.

A project website, currently in development, will provide access to the interviews and data obtained. Furthermore, research will be disseminated through papers at three international conferences, two articles and two books, and a PhD student will receive a strong foundation for research in Italian film.

More information about the project can be found in the College news article.