Spectatorship and Audiences

The film audience remains a central area of interest for both film studies and film industry professionals alike. Understanding how and why films connect with certain film viewers and not others can reveal a great deal about how film functions both as an art form and as entertainment. However, academic film studies and the film industry have very different motivations underlying their interest in the film viewer and therefore engage in different types of inquiry into the ways in which that viewer participates in the process of film going.

A straightforward way to distinguish between these two models is to think about film studies as interested in how film language constructs a film spectator, and the film industry as focused on why a film appeals to audiences. In other words, academic film studies is concerned with how film produces a larger system of meaning in which the hypothetical film viewer—referred to as the spectator—is enveloped. On the other hand, because the film industry is a moneymaking enterprise, the more it learns about individual film viewers, their tastes, likes, and dislikes, the better chance it has of ensuring the profitability of its investment.

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