Comparing Localised Film Culture in English Cities: The Diversity of Film Exhibition in Bristol and Liverpool

Peter Merrington, Matthew Hanchard, Bridgette Wessels

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter critically assesses the diversity of film exhibition in two English cities. Bristol in south west England is well served for both mainstream and independent films, with a diversity of programmes, events, festivals, and venues. In contrast, although Liverpool in north west England has a plurality of mainstream commercial cinemas, it is underserved for independent film and programmes are often limited to small-scale, temporary, or one-off initiatives. Through a comparative analysis of audience relations with film venues, festivals, digital platforms, and different types of film, this chapter examines relational, localised, and urban film cultures to understand how differing characteristics of film exhibition influence people’s sense of place. The analysis draws on 100 semi-structured, qualitative interviews with a wide range of film viewers in these two cities and the surrounding north west and south west regions. As well as comparatively assessing the provision and perception of film exhibition in these cities, the chapter questions the role of national film policy in developing film exhibition provision in underserved cities. The chapter points to a new understanding of how film audiences’ sense of place is shaped by film exhibition. Here Bristol is considered a diverse film city where the breadth of film watching opportunities shapes how local people identify with the city through their experiences of different cinemas, film festivals, and events. While in Liverpool there was sometimes frustration with the lack of opportunities to experience a diverse film culture beyond the commercial mainstream and this shaped how people viewed the cultural diversity of the city as a result. It is through this comparative analysis of the local characteristics of film exhibition in these two English cities that we argue for the significance of place in shaping the relationship contemporary audiences have with film.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Comparative New Cinema Histories
EditorsDaniela Treveri Gennari, Lies Van de Vijver, Pierluigi Ercole
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-38789-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-38788-3, 978-3-031-38789-0
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2024


  • Global Cinema and TV
  • Film/TV Industry
  • Film History

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