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Online Platforms & Film Circulation

Online Platforms and Film Circulation is a research project that examines the role of Netflix, Amazon, MUBI and other video-on-demand services in an era of content abundance. It draws on in-depth analysis of specialised films that circulate beyond the mainstream to analyse how they are introduced and promoted to audiences on online platforms. Given the rapid development of the online market, there is a need for greater insight into distribution and exhibition processes that influence audience outcomes.

Project Start: January 2020
Project Completion: May 2024
Video-on-demand platforms

Different types of video-on-demand platforms

What are specialised films and why are they relevant?
  • They are loosely referred to as a category of less familiar feature films that circulate mostly beyond the mainstream, involving independent films, art-house films, festival films and world cinema.

  • As a category, they are roughly located between mainstream, commercial films and experimental, non-commercial films.

  • They are commercial productions that are often associated with an appreciation for their cultural, aesthetic and/or social values.

  • It is often asserted that they make an enriching contribution to the diversification of film culture and the ways that individuals and groups in society are represented on screen.

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Examples of specialised films

Why is it important to conduct more research?
  • Macro-level perspectives about the influence of online platforms on audience consumption have been developed (such as the long tail), but empirical research at meso- and micro-levels reveals greater insight in the processes at work that influence audience outcomes.

  • Little is known about online platforms in relation to the circulation of specialised films. A comparative study of platforms can demonstrate how they engage with such films in different ways.

  • The film industry benefits from a better understanding of strategies developed by online platforms. Generating commercial value for specialised films is often identified as a key challenge for industry practitioners.

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Homepage of the specialised subscription platform Realeyz in Germany (screenshot taken on 17th March 2020)

Research Objectives
  • Producing a database of specialised films with information about their availability on online platforms in Spain and Germany.

  • Analysing the visibility of specialised films on online platforms in Spain and Germany.

  • Analysing online platforms as gatekeepers with influence over the consumption of specialised films.

  • Analysing how processes of access, power and control in the online market impact on the circulation of specialised films.

  • Analysing how programming practices in the online market compare with the theatrical cinema market, television market and DVD/Blu-ray market.

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The Florida Project (2017) on the specailised platform MUBI in Germany

  • “European Film Festivals in Transition? Film Festival Formats in Times of COVID”. Delivered at Thessaloniki Film Festival (Greece), 8 November 2021.

  • “European Film Festivals in Transition: Reshaping the Traditional Festival Format”. Paper delivered for the Besides the Screen conference, University of Nottingham Ningbo (China), 10-12 June 2021.

  • “Analysing the Contours of Online Availability: Circulation Patterns for Specialised Films on VOD platforms”. Paper delivered for the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) conference (United States), Virtual edition, 21 March 2021.

Project Funding

This project is undertaken by Roderik Smits and funded through the CONEX-PLUS Marie Curie programme at University Carlos III of Madrid.

For more information about the project or collaborations:

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