In search of Italian cinema audiences in the 1940s and 1950s: Gender, Genre and National Identity

Research project key facts
Project title In search of Italian cinema audiences in the 1940s and 1950s: Gender, Genre and National Identity
School Arts
Department Italian
Dates 01 September 2013 - 01 September 2016
Funder Arts and Humanities Research Council
Contact Dr Catheirne O'Rawe

More about this project

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 them? In the golden years of Italian cinema, the 1940s and '50s, when Italian cinema produced the internationally influential Neorealist movement, with figures like Rossellini, De Sica and Page 2 of 17 Date Saved: 25/07/2012 09:19:01 Date Printed: 25/07/2012 09:21:11 Proposal original proforma document Outputs The main outputs of the research Ethical Information Provide details of what they are and how they would be addressed [up to 1000 characters] Fellini achieving world renown, cinema-going was the most popular national pastime, at its peak representing 70% of leisure expenditure by Italians. However, we know little about how Italian audiences chose films, which genres and stars they preferred, and how region, location, gender, and class influenced their views. With this project, for the first time, oral and written accounts of film-going in the period will be contextualised by press reception, box-office figures, and industry data in order to uncover the hidden side of Italian film history: its spectators.

The project, a collaboration between three academic experts in post-war Italian cinema, Daniela Treveri Gennari, Danielle Hipkins and Catherine O'Rawe, will draw on the support of six non-profit organisations in Italy. Three of these (ANASTE, Blumedia and Unitre) will help us distribute 1000 questionnaires amongst groups of Italy's over-65s, in order to gather statistics about cinema-going in the 1940s and '50s. Then, drawing on the survey's findings, Memoro (an organization that records and disseminates online video interviews with elderly Italians) will conduct 160 interviews on cinema-going, with a carefully chosen sample of interviewees from across Italy. These interviews will form the core of our understanding of the everyday practices of cinema-goers in the 1940s and '50s. An initial 20 interviews we recorded in Rome (available at already challenge our views of cinema-going. Moreover, thanks to the successful British Academy Mid Career Fellowship Funding, the data the PI is gathering (250 questionnaires and 50 interviews in Rome) will provide further evidence on audiences memories.

People involved in this project

Principal investigator: