Italian Cinema Audiences is a collaborative research project exploring cinema audiences in Italy in the 1950s. It is led by Daniela Treveri Gennari (Oxford Brookes University), Catherine O’Rawe (University of Bristol) and Danielle Hipkins (University of Exeter), and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
We know a lot about the directors and stars of Italian cinema’s heyday, from Roberto Rossellini to Sophia Loren. But what do we know about the Italian audiences that went to see their films? In its golden years, the 1940s and ’50s, Italian cinema produced the internationally influential Neorealist movement, with figures like Rossellini, De Sica and Fellini achieving world fame. At that time cinema-going was the most popular national pastime, representing at its peak 70% of leisure expenditure by Italians. However, we know little about how Italian audiences chose films, what genres and stars they preferred, and how region, location, gender, and class influenced their choices. With this project, for the first time, oral and written accounts of film-going during this period will be contextualised by press reception, box-office figures, and film industry data in order to uncover the hidden side of Italian film history: its spectators.
This project will provide the first study of cinema audiences in Italy in the 1950s, when Italians went to the cinema more than almost any other nation in Europe. It is crucial to conduct large-scale empirical research into Italian film audiences of that time before those audiences disappear. The project extends the findings of our pilot project undertaken in 2009 on cinema-going in Rome, funded by Oxford Brookes University. It will explore the importance of films in everyday life in Italy, and the social experience of cinema-going, by interviewing surviving audience members, analyzing their responses using a data analysis software, and contextualizing these responses through further archival research. The innovative nature of the collaboration between our universities and six Italian organizations is vital for the success of our project. These organizations will provide contacts, data and expertise in their area, which are needed to guarantee the success of this large-scale project