8. Reception: Audiences, Communities and Cinephiles

The issue of programming is intimately connected to the issue of reception. Curators imagine a certain program and by doing so envision a way to highlight, promote and contextualize a film. The program, however, is also dependent on the audience and its actual reception. Film festivals offer a framework which generates certain audience expectations; with their program festival programmers (often) try to encourage the active reception of the audience (cf. Klippel 2008: 10). Some scholars and curators would even go so far as to say that programming means not (only) programming films but “programming the public” (Fung 1999, section 9.1.1). They point to the fact that programming directly influences the constituency of the audience – although no one can foresee what audience reaction and outcome a certain program will have (Stringer 2008).

The specific reception environment created by film festivals is largely defined by the event nature of the festival. While cinema attendance is often bemoaned as declining, festival attendances across the board are reported as going up. The possibility to see something first, or something one cannot see elsewhere, something unexpected – maybe even the added possibility to see a film star – brings people to the festival (cf. Reichel-Heldt 2007, section 1.1; cf. De Valck 2005).

For specialized festivals, the general feeling of belonging to a group, a cinephile community, is heightened by identity cues. Audience members of horror genre festivals (cf. Stringer 2008) or queer film festivals, to name just two examples, share a common interest that goes beyond film (or even a genre of film) in general. They meet with like-minded viewers, sometimes the subcultural community, when congregating at a festival screening. Such a specific context adds to the special nature of the reception setting. In a queer film festival, this might even result in critical, communal counter-readings of films (cf. Searle 1996, section 9.1.1). In a general sense, the setting and the programming structure of the event can induce a focused form of reception (discovering form, inferring meaning) which brings about “new cinemas” (Nichols 1994).

The multifaceted category “8. Reception: Audiences, Communities and Cinephiles” collects articles circling around several different aspects of reception: text-based reception studies, discussions on aspects of reception and cinephilia, reception environments and their link to communities, etc. This rubric will also include contributions from the area of Tourism Management and Business Studies. Among the new entries we want to highlight two pieces that present quantitative audience research on festival audiences. These articles currently listed (Lee/Lee/Wicks 2004; Lee et al. 2008) are likely to be the tip of a new iceberg.


Armatage, Kay. “Screenings by Moonlight.” Film International, vol. 6, no. 4, 2008, pp. 34–40.

Armatage, Kay. “Sidebar: Travelling Projectionist Films.” Film International, vol. 6, no. 4, 2008, pp. 41–42.

Ateşman, Özge Özdüzen. “The Politicisation and ‘Occupy’sation of the Istanbul Film Festival Audience.” Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2015, pp. 679–702. www.participations.org​/​Volume%2012/​Issue%201/​38.pdf.

Atkinson, Justine. “Curating an African Film Festival in Scotland: The Recognition of Difference.” Third Text, vol. 31, 5-6, 2017, pp. 681–98. doi:10.1080/09528822.2018.1433115.

Caillé, Patricia. “A Tunisian Film Festival in Paris: Issues in Reception at the Intersection of French and Anglo-American Approaches to Cultural Analysis of the Diasporas.” French Cultural Studies, vol. 21, no. 2, 2010, pp. 85–96. doi:10.1177/0957155810361807.

Canciani, John. “Curatorial Practices: A Debriefing of a Panel Discussion: Interview Part 3 with Lars Henrik Gass, Maike Mia Höhne, Jukka-Pekka Laakso, Laurence Raymond, Peter van Hoof.” On Curating, no. 23, 2014, pp. 34–37. www.on-curating.org​/​issue-​23-​reader/​curatorial-​practices-​interview-​part-​3.html.

Canciani, John. “Hybrid Films: A Debriefing of a Panel Discussion: Interview Part 2 with Lars Henrik Gass, Maike Mia Höhne, Jukka-Pekka Laakso, Laurence Raymond, Peter van Hoof.” On Curating, no. 23, 2014, pp. 23–25. www.on-curating.org​/​index.php/​issue-​23-​reader/​hybrid-​films-​interview-​part-​2.html.

Chambers, Jamie, and Will Higbee. “Utopian Montage: Exploring Transnational Folk Cinemas Online During the Covid-19 Pandemic as Part of the 2020 Folk Film Gathering Film Festival.” Open Screens, vol. 4, no. 2, 2021, pp. 1–32. doi:10.16995/OS.8009.

Cosma, Smaranda; Bota, Marius; Fleseriu, Cristina; Negrusa, Adina; Toader, Valentin; Rus, Rozalia Veronica. “Some Considerations Regarding Motivations and Overall Perceptions on Film Festivals.” Amfiteatru Economic, vol. 18, no. 10, 2016, pp. 929–43. search.proquest.com​/​docview/​1872589936​?​accountid=​14468.

Davies, Lyell. “Documentary Film Festivals and Ideological Transactions: Film Screening Sites at Hot Docs.” Canadian Journal of Film Studies | Revue Canadienne d’Études Cinématographiques, vol. 25, no. 1, 2016, 88–100.

Davies, Lyell. “Not Only Projections in a Dark Room: Theorizing Activist Film Festivals in the Lives of Campaigns and Social Movements.” Frames Cinema Journal, no. 13, 2018, framescinemajournal.com​/​article/​not-​only-​projections-​in-​a-​dark-​room-​theorizing-​activist-​film-​festivals-​in-​the-​lives-​of-​campaigns-​and-​social-​movements/​.

de Valck, Marijke. “Drowning in Popcorn at the International Film Festival Rotterdam? The Festival as a Multiplex of Cinephilia.” Cinephilia: Movies, Love and Memory, edited by Marijke de Valck and Malte Hagener, Amsterdam University Press, 2005, pp. 97–109.

de Valck, Marijke. “Reflections on the Recent Cinephilia Debates.” Cinema Journal, vol. 49, no. 2, 2010, pp. 132–39.

Devesa, María; Báez, Andrea; Figueroa, Víctor; Herrero, Luis César. “Factors Determining Attendance at a Film Festival.” Event Management, vol. 19, no. 3, 2015, pp. 317–30. doi:10.3727/152599515X14386220874724.

Dickson, Lesley-Ann. “’ah! Other Bodies!’: Embodied Spaces, Pleasures and Practices at Glasgow Film Festival.” Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2015, pp. 703–24. www.participations.org​/​Volume%2012/​Issue%201/​39.pdf.

Dickson, Lesley-Ann. Film Festival and Cinema Audiences: A Study of Exhibition Practice and Audience Reception at Glasgow Film Festival. PhD Thesis, University of Glasgow, 2014, theses.gla.ac.uk​/​id/​eprint/​5693.

Ercolano, Salvatore; Gaeta, Giuseppe Lucio; Parenti, Benedetta. “Individual Motivations and Thematically-Oriented Film Festival Attendance: An Empirical Study Based on Spectators of the Artecinema International Documentary Festival in Naples (Italy).” Quality & Quantity, vol. 51, no. 2, 2017, pp. 709–27. doi:10.1007/s11135-016-0434-y.

Frohlick, Susan. “’That Playfulness of White Masculinity’: Mediating Masculinities and Adventure at Mountain Film Festivals.” Tourist Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, 2005, pp. 175–93.

Grunwell, Sandra S.; Ha, Inhyuck “Steve”; Martin, Bonnie S.. “A Comparative Analysis of Attendee Profiles at Two Urban Festivals.” Journal of Convention & Event Tourism, vol. 9, no. 1, 2008, pp. 1–14.

Hadley, Richard; Whitehouse, Paula; Clarke, Mary. Arts Festivals and the Visitor Economy: Their Contribution and their Potential in the West Midlands Region. Arts Council England, 2006. www.artscouncil.org.uk/media/uploads/documents/publications/phprcsADv.pdf.

Ihwanny, R., and M. Budiman. “The Director’s Responses and the Shaping of Indonesia’s Identity in the European Film Festival Funding.” Urban Studies: Border and Mobility, 8-9.12.2017, Surabaya, Indonesia, 4th International Conference on Urban Studies (ICUS 2017) edited by Thor Kerr. London, Routledge, 2019, pp. 79–85.

Kerns, Susan Santha. “From Calling ‘Action’ to Community Action: The Milwaukee Film Festival’s Conversation Series.” Synoptique, vol. 3, no. 2, 2015, pp. 101–13. synoptique.hybrid.concordia.ca​/​index.php/​main/​article/​view/​52.

Kishore, Shweta. “Beyond Cinephilia: Situating the Encounter between Documentary Film and Film Festival Audiences: The Case of the Ladakh International Film Festival, India.” Third Text, vol. 27, no. 6, 2013, pp. 735–47. doi:10.1080/09528822.2013.857898.

Klimek, Caroline. “From Programmer to Curator: How Film Festivals Are Pushing the Boundaries of New Media and Expanded Cinema.” Canadian Journal of Film Studies | Revue Canadienne d’Études Cinématographiques, vol. 27, no. 1, 2018, pp. 73–87. doi:10.3138/cjfs.27.1.2017-0016.

Koehler, Robert. “Cinephilia and Film Festivals.” Dekalog 3: On Film Festivals, edited by Richard Porton, Wallflower, 2009, pp. 81–97.

Koven, Mikel J. “Film Festivals as Spaces of Meaning: Researching Festival Audiences as Producers of Meaning.” The Worcester Papers in English and Cultural Studies, no. 6, 2008, www.worc.ac.uk​/​documents/​MK_​Issue6_​2008.doc.

Lee, Choong-Ki; Lee, Yong-Ki; Wicks, Bruce E.. “Segmentation of Festival Motivation by Nationality and Satisfaction.” Tourism Management, vol. 25, no. 1, 2004, pp. 61–70.

Lee, Yong-Ki; Lee, Choong-Ki; Lee, Seung-Kon; Babin, Barry J.. “Festivalscapes and patrons’ emotions, satisfaction, and loyalty.” Journal of Business Research, vol. 61, no. 1, 2008, pp. 56–64.

Lindeperg, Sylvie. ‘Nuit et brouillard’: Un film dans l’histoire, Edition Odile Jacob, 2007.

Lloyd, Matthew. How the Movie Brats Took Over Edinburgh: The Impact of Cinéphilia on Edinburgh International Film Festival, 1968-1980, St Andrews Film Studies, 2011.

Loist, Skadi. “Über die Freuden kollektiver Filmerfahrung bei Filmfestivals.” Die Körper des Kinos: Für eine fröhliche Filmwissenschaft, Annette Brauerhoch zum 60. Geburtstag. edited by Christian Hüls et al., Stroemfeld, 2015, pp. 207–14.

Martinez, Josu; Frances, Miriam; Agirre, Katixa; Manias-Muñoz, Miren. “Zinegin Basque Film Festival: A Non-Existent Audience Revealed.” Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2015, pp. 725–38. participations.org​/​Volume%2012/​Issue%201/​40.pdf.

Nichols, Bill. “Discovering Form, Inferring Meaning: New Cinemas and the Film Festival Circuit.” Film Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 3, 1994, pp. 16–30.

Odabasi, Eren. “Constructing Film Festival Audiences: Performative Practices and Material Conditions.” International Film Festivals: Contemporary Cultures and History Beyond Venice and Cannes, edited by Tricia Jenkins, I.B.Tauris, 2018, pp. 70–89.

Palis, Joseph. “Film Festivals, the Globalization of Images and Post-National Cinephilia.” The Pennsylvania Geographer, vol. 53, no. 2, 2015, pp. 35–47.

Park, Minkyung; Oh, Haemoon; Park, Jowon. “Measuring the Experience Economy of Film Festival Participants.” International Journal of Tourism Sciences, vol. 10, no. 2, 2010, pp. 35–54. doi:10.1080/15980634.2010.11434625.

Rosenbaum, Jonathan. “Sampling in Rotterdam.” Movie Mutations: The Changing Face of World Cinephilia, edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum and Adrian Martin, BFI Publishing, 2003, pp. 52–60.

Roy, Carole. Documentary film festivals: Transformative learning, community building & solidarity, Sense Publishers, 2016. Transgressions: cultural studies and education 115.

Stevens, Kirsten. See It at a Festival Near You: The Film Festival as Exhibition Practice in Melbourne, 1952-2012. PhD Thesis, Monash University, 2013.

Stringer, Julian. “Genre Films and Festival Communities: Lessons from Nottingham, 1991-2000.” Film International, vol. 6, no. 4, 2008, pp. 53–60.

Tascon, Sonia M. “Watching Others’ Troubles: Revisiting ‘The Film Act’ and Spectatorship in Activist Film Festivals.” Activist Film Festivals: Towards a Political Subject, edited by Sonia M. Tascon and Tyson Wils, intellect, 2017, 21–37.

Tascon, Sonia M., and Tyson Wils, editors. Activist Film Festivals: Towards a Political Subject, intellect, 2017.

Teissl, Verena. “How and Why Film Festivals Contributed and Contribute to the Reception of the Latin American Film.” Latin America, edited by Isabel Maurer Queipo, intellect, 2013, pp. 20–27. Directory of world cinema 17.

Unwin, Elinor; Kerrigan, Finola; Waite, Kathryn; Grant, David. “Getting the Picture: Programme Awareness amongst Film Festival Customers.” International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, vol. 12, no. 3, 2007, pp. 231–45. doi:10.1002/nvsm.303.

Vivar Navas, Rosana. Los Festivales De Cine En La Era De Los ‘New Media’: Una Perspectiva Lúdica Sobre Las Fiestas Del Cine Y Sus Públicos [Film festivals in the era of the ‘new media’: A playful perspective on film festivals and their audiences.], PhD Thesis, Universidad de Granada, 2016.

Vivar Navas, Rosana. “A Film Bacchanal: Playfulness and Audience Sovereignty in San Sebastian Horror and Fantasy Film Festival.” Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, vol. 13, no. 1, 2016, pp. 234–51. www.participations.org​/​Volume%2013/​Issue%201/​S1/​6.pdf.

Vivar Navas, Rosana. “Never Seen a Shot Like That Before! Playfulness and Participatory Audiences in San Sebastian Horror and Fantasy Film Festival.” Live Cinema: Cultures, Economies, Aesthetics, edited by Sarah Atkinson and Helen W. Kennedy, Bloomsbury Academic & Professional, 2017, pp. 117–32.

Winkler, Ines; Zink, Anne; Schomerus, Georg; Richter−Werling. “Das Filmfestival “AUSNAHME|ZUSTAND“: Eine Strategie gegen die Stigmatisierung psychisch kranker Menschen?” Psychiatrische Praxis, vol. 35, no. 1, 2007, pp. 33–39. doi:10.1055/s-2007-970885.pdf.

Winton, Ezra, and Svetla Turnin. “The Revolution Will Not Be Festivalized: Documentary Film Festivals and Activism.” Activist Film Festivals: Towards a Political Subject, edited by Sonia M. Tascon and Tyson Wils, intellect, 2017, 81–103.

Yeoman, Ian; Robertson, Martin; Ali-Knight, Jane; Drummond, Siobhan; McMahon-Beattie., editors. Festival and Events Management: An International Arts and Culture Perspective, Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, 2004.

Yolal, Medet, et al. “Multidimensional Scaling of Spectators’ Motivations to Attend a Film Festival.” Journal of Convention & Event Tourism, vol. 20, no. 1, 2019, pp. 64–83. doi:10.1080/15470148.2018.1563012.

(Last updated: 22 July 2021)