Beyond the Multiplex

Audiences for Specialised Film in English Regions

‘Beyond the Multiplex: audiences for specialised film in English regions’ (BtM) was a four-year research project (conducted between 2017 to 2021), funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under project reference AH/P005780/2. The project sought to develop an understanding of how a wider range of audiences might be enabled to participate in a more diverse film culture.

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.

The aim of the BtM was to understand 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 how to optimise the cultural value of engaging with those less familiar films. It did this by investigating how audiences engage with and form around ‘specialised’ films in four English regions, the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, North West/Greater Manchester and the South West. Here, Audience formation is 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.

Achieving 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.