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. 2008. “Screenings by Moonlight.” Film International 6 (4): 34–40.

Armatage, Kay. 2008. “Sidebar: Travelling Projectionist Films.” Film International 6 (4): 41–42.

Ateşman, Özge Özdüzen. 2015. “The Politicisation and ‘Occupy’sation of the Istanbul Film Festival Audience.” Participations 12 (1): 679–702. https://www.participations.org/Volume%2012/Issue%201/38.pdf. Accessed May 31, 2020.

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

Bachman, Jarrett R., and John S. Hull. 2022. “From the Theatre to the Living Room: Comparing Queer Film Festival Patrons and Outcomes Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Annals of Leisure Research, no. ##: #1–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/11745398.2022.2055585.

Bachman, Jarrett R., and John S. Hull. 2022. “Hardly Homogenous: A Multi-Year Analysis of Attendees at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.” Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events, no. ##: 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/19407963.2022.2037624.

Bosma, Peter. 2015. “Cinephilia as a Curatorial Element.” In Film Programming: Curating for Cinemas, Festivals, Archives, 20–32. Short cuts 59. New York: Wallflower.

Burgess, Diane, and Kirsten Stevens. 2023. “Locating Buzz and Liveness: The Role of Geoblocking and Co-Presence in Virtual Film Festivals.” In Rethinking Film Festivals in the Pandemic Era and After, edited by Marijke de Valck and Antoine Damiens, 59–80. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Caillé, Patricia. 2010. “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 21 (2): 85–96. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957155810361807.

Canciani, John. 2014. “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 (23): 34–37. https://www.on-curating.org/issue-23-reader/curatorial-practices-interview-part-3.html. Accessed May 25, 2020.

Canciani, John. 2014. “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 (23): 23–25. http://www.on-curating.org/index.php/issue-23-reader/hybrid-films-interview-part-2.html. Accessed April 28, 2014.

Chambers, Jamie, and Will Higbee. 2021. “Utopian Montage: Exploring Transnational Folk Cinemas Online During the Covid-19 Pandemic as Part of the 2020 Folk Film Gathering Film Festival.” Open Screens 4 (2): 1–32. https://doi.org/10.16995/OS.8009.

Cosma, Smaranda, Marius Bota, Cristina Fleseriu, Adina Negrusa, Valentin Toader, and Rozalia Veronica Rus. 2016. “Some Considerations Regarding Motivations and Overall Perceptions on Film Festivals.” Amfiteatru Economic 18 (10): 929–43. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1872589936?accountid=14468.

Costa Villaverde, Elisa. 2016. “Film Festivals and Cinematic Events Bridging the Gap Between the Individual and the Community: Cinema and Social Function in Conflict Resolution.” IAFOR J Media Commun Film 3 (1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijmcf.3.1.06.

Davies, Lyell. 2016. “Documentary Film Festivals and Ideological Transactions: Film Screening Sites at Hot Docs.” CJFS 25 (1): 88–100.

Davies, Lyell. 2018. “Not Only Projections in a Dark Room: Theorizing Activist Film Festivals in the Lives of Campaigns and Social Movements.” Frames (13). http://framescinemajournal.com/article/not-only-projections-in-a-dark-room-theorizing-activist-film-festivals-in-the-lives-of-campaigns-and-social-movements/. Accessed May 31, 2020.

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

de Valck, Marijke. 2010. “Reflections on the Recent Cinephilia Debates.” Cinema Journal 49 (2): 132–39.

Devesa, María, Andrea Báez, Víctor Figueroa, and Luis César Herrero. 2015. “Factors Determining Attendance at a Film Festival.” Event Management 19 (3): 317–30. https://doi.org/10.3727/152599515X14386220874724.

Dickson, Lesley-Ann. 2014. “Film Festival and Cinema Audiences: A Study of Exhibition Practice and Audience Reception at Glasgow Film Festival.” PhD Thesis, University of Glasgow. Accessed May 31, 2020. http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/5693.

Dickson, Lesley-Ann. 2015. “’Ah! Other Bodies!’: Embodied Spaces, Pleasures and Practices at Glasgow Film Festival.” Participations 12 (1): 703–24. https://www.participations.org/Volume%2012/Issue%201/39.pdf. Accessed May 31, 2020.

Dylan, Emerson. 2019. “O Festival E a Cidade: A Mostra Internacional De Cinema De São Paulo Como Um Espaço De Sociabilidade Na Capital Paulista.” [The Festival and the City: the São Paulo International film festival as a space of sociability in the paulista capital]. CSOnline, no. 29: 33-44. https://doi.org/10.34019/1981-2140.2019.26382.

Ercolano, Salvatore, Giuseppe Lucio Gaeta, and Benedetta Parenti. 2017. “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 51 (2): 709–27. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-016-0434-y.

Frohlick, Susan. 2005. “’That Playfulness of White Masculinity’: Mediating Masculinities and Adventure at Mountain Film Festivals.” Tourist Studies 5 (2): 175–93.

Grunwell, Sandra S., Inhyuck “Steve” Ha, and Bonnie S. Martin. 2008. “A Comparative Analysis of Attendee Profiles at Two Urban Festivals.” Journal of Convention & Event Tourism 9 (1): 1–14.

Hadley, Richard, Paula Whitehouse, and Mary Clarke. 2006. “Arts Festivals and the Visitor Economy: Their Contribution and Their Potential in the West Midlands Region.” Unpublished manuscript, last modified August 10, 2010. www.artscouncil.org.uk/media/uploads/documents/publications/phprcsADv.pdf.

Ihwanny, R., and M. Budiman. 2019. “The Director’s Responses and the Shaping of Indonesia’s Identity in the European Film Festival Funding.” In Urban Studies: Border and Mobility, edited by Thor Kerr, 79–85. London: Routledge.

Kerns, Susan Santha. 2015. “From Calling ‘Action’ to Community Action: The Milwaukee Film Festival’s Conversation Series.” Synoptique 3 (2): 101–13. https://synoptiqueblog.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/8-susan-santha-kerns-from-calling-e2809cactione2809d-to-community-action-the-milwaukee-film-festival_s-conversation-series.pdf. Accessed May 31, 2020.

Kishore, Shweta. 2013. “Beyond Cinephilia: Situating the Encounter Between Documentary Film and Film Festival Audiences: The Case of the Ladakh International Film Festival, India.” Third Text 27 (6): 735–47. https://doi.org/10.1080/09528822.2013.857898.

Klimek, Caroline. 2018. “From Programmer to Curator: How Film Festivals Are Pushing the Boundaries of New Media and Expanded Cinema.” CJFS 27 (1): 73–87. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjfs.27.1.2017-0016.

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

Koven, Mikel J. 2008. “Film Festivals as Spaces of Meaning: Researching Festival Audiences as Producers of Meaning.” The Worcester Papers in English and Cultural Studies (6). http://www.worc.ac.uk/documents/MK_Issue6_2008.doc. Accessed July 19, 2009.

Lee, Choong-Ki, Yong-Ki Lee, and Bruce E. Wicks. 2004. “Segmentation of Festival Motivation by Nationality and Satisfaction.” Tourism Management 25 (1): 61–70.

Lee, Yong-Ki, Choong-Ki Lee, Seung-Kon Lee, and Barry J. Babin. 2008. “Festivalscapes and Patrons’ Emotions, Satisfaction, and Loyalty.” Journal of Business Research 61 (1): 56–64.

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

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

Loist, Skadi. 2015. “Über die Freuden kollektiver Filmerfahrung bei Filmfestivals.” In Die Körper des Kinos: Für eine fröhliche Filmwissenschaft, edited by Christian Hüls, Natalie Lettenewitsch, and Anke Zechner, 207–14. Frankfurt am Main, Basel: Stroemfeld.

Martinez, Josu, Miriam Frances, Katixa Agirre, and Miren Manias-Muñoz. 2015. “Zinegin Basque Film Festival: A Non-Existent Audience Revealed.” Participations 12 (1): 725–38. https://www.participations.org/Volume%2012/Issue%201/40.pdf. Accessed May 31, 2020.

Massarolo, João, Dario Mesquita, André Fischer, and Claudia Erthal. 2021. “Plataformização Dos Festivais De Cinema E Audiovisual: A Experiência Do MixBrasil.” In “Festivais E Mostras Audiovisuais: Olhares E Perspectivas.”: Olhares E Perspectivas, edited by Izabel Cruz Melo, Juliana Muylaert, and Tetê Mattos. Special issue, Rebeca – Revista Brasileira de Estudos de Cinema e Audiovisual 10. (2): 219–43. [Platformization of Film and Audiovisual Festivals: The MixBrasil Experience].

Nichols, Bill. 1994. “Discovering Form, Inferring Meaning: New Cinemas and the Film Festival Circuit.” Film Quarterly 47 (3): 16–30.

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

Palis, Joseph. 2015. “Film Festivals, the Globalization of Images and Post-National Cinephilia.” The Pennsylvania Geographer 53 (2): 35–47.

Park, Minkyung, Haemoon Oh, and Jowon Park. 2010. “Measuring the Experience Economy of Film Festival Participants.” International Journal of Tourism Sciences 10 (2): 35–54. https://doi.org/10.1080/15980634.2010.11434625.

Pires, Bianca Salles. 2019. “A Formação De Públicos Cinéfilos: Circuitos Paralelos, Museus E Festivais Internacionais.” Doktorarbeit, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.

Pires, Bianca Salles. 2019. “Janelas Para O Mundo: A Mostra Internacional De Cinema De São Paulo E O Festival De Cinema Do Rio Como Palcos Para a Festa De Seus Públicos.” In De Vidas Artes, edited by Paula Guerra and Lígia Dabul, 91–111. Porto: Universidade do Porto. Windows to the World: The Mostra Internacional de Cinema de São Paulo and Festival do Rio as Stages for Their Publics’ Feast].

Póvoa, Débora. 2023. “‘The Festival Is Ours’: Power Dynamics of Community Participation in the Alter Do Chão Film Festival.” International Journal of Cultural Studies 26 (2): 200-215. https://doi.org/10.1177/13678779231154288.

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

Roy, Carole. 2016. Documentary Film Festivals: Transformative Learning, Community Building & Solidarity. Transgressions: cultural studies and education 115. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Stevens, Kirsten. 2013. “See It at a Festival Near You: The Film Festival as Exhibition Practice in Melbourne, 1952-2012.” PhD Thesis, Film and Television Studies, School of English, Communication and Performance Studies, Monash University.

Stevens, Kirsten. 2018. “’You Had to Be There’: Film Festival ‘Liveness’ and the Digitally Connected Audience.” In International Film Festivals: Contemporary Cultures and History Beyond Venice and Cannes, edited by Tricia Jenkins, 11–31. London, New York: I.B.Tauris.

Stringer, Julian. 2008. “Genre Films and Festival Communities: Lessons from Nottingham, 1991-2000.” Film International 6 (4): 53–60.

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

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

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

Tzouflas, Konstantinos. 2022. “Films from Countries in Crisis and Switzerland: The New Argentine Cinema, Greek New Wave and Swiss Film Institutions.” Cinergie 11 (22): 69–82. https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.2280-9481/14341.

Unwin, Elinor, Finola Kerrigan, Kathryn Waite, and David Grant. 2007. “Getting the Picture: Programme Awareness Amongst Film Festival Customers.” Int. J. Nonprofit Volunt. Sect. Mark 12 (3): 231–45. https://doi.org/10.1002/nvsm.303.

Vail, James, Theresa Heath, Lesley-Ann Dickson, and Rebecca Finkel. 2023. “Film Festivals on the Small Screen: Audiences, Domestic Space, and Everyday Media.” In Rethinking Film Festivals in the Pandemic Era and After, edited by Marijke de Valck and Antoine Damiens, 81–100. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Vivar Navas, Rosana. 2016. “A Film Bacchanal: Playfulness and Audience Sovereignty in San Sebastian Horror and Fantasy Film Festival.” Participations 13 (1): 234–51. http://www.participations.org/Volume%2013/Issue%201/S1/6.pdf.

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

Winkler, Ines, Anne Zink, Georg Schomerus, Manuela Richter−Werling, Matthias C. Angermeyer, and Steffi Riedel−Heller. 2007. “Das Filmfestival “AUSNAHME|ZUSTAND“: Eine Strategie gegen die Stigmatisierung psychisch kranker Menschen?” Psychiat Prax 35 (1): 33–39. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2007-970885.pdf.

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

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

Yolal, Medet, Cansev Özdemir, and Bülent Batmaz. 2019. “Multidimensional Scaling of Spectators’ Motivations to Attend a Film Festival.” Journal of Convention & Event Tourism 20 (1): 64–83. https://doi.org/10.1080/15470148.2018.1563012.

(Last updated: 21. April 2024)