Film audience research covers a multitude of approaches and methodologies. As I sat in the Filmhouse lobby yesterday morning waiting for late arrivals to the Edinburgh International Film Audience Conference, a lady approached me. She asked me what the conference was all about – she had seen the poster on the door and was intrigued. With a background in statistics, she wanted to share the idea that the middle of a recession may is a bad time to do audience research. If you want to get more people to go to the cinema, aggressive marketing is the solution.

There was some support for her last statement in the papers that were presented this morning. The afternoon took quite a different focus which illustrates the variety of audience research.

Ian Good and Karina Aveyard presented papers about rural audiences. Ian talked about the past. He is doing historical research into cinema in rural Scotland in 1946 to 1970, from the perspective of the cinema projectionist. Bringing cinema to a rural community was a work of passion and art, a way of giving people a reason to stay. Karina’s focus is distant from Ian’s in time and space. She looks at the place of cinema in contemporary Australia. She suggested that film experience is formed by a combination of content and location.

Locations and content are invested with values. A paper by Mihai Pedestru, presented by Mihai Gadalean who stepped in when Mihai could not make it, compared Romanian youth’s attitudes to cinema and theatre. Despite a ticket for the theatre being cheaper than a cinema ticket in Romania, the perception was that theatre is educational and while cinema is pure entertainment.

Rebecca Williams and Inger-Lise Bore are both interested in fandom, a very particular audience behaviour. Looking at fans of the Twighlight saga in the US, UK and Norway, they found that attitudes and concerns regarding the characters were very similar across borders. But the fans with access to events, stars and merchandise – fans in L.A., London and Oslo – had a cachet in the forums they looked at that more remote fans did not.

There’s many different ways to learn about audiences: every method gives a different facet of understanding but to me, as an audience member, they are all interesting. It is not all about making sales, it's about a wider understanding of human behaviour. I look forward to see what this morning brings.

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Tags: Audiences, EIFAC, Edinburgh, Film, Filmhouse, International

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