Conference | The End of Cinema and the Future of Cinema Studies

Friday, April 12, 2013 - 9:30am

The First Annual Dick Wolf Penn Cinema Studies Conference:

The End of Cinema and the Future of Cinema Studies

Friday, April 12, 2013 | 9:30am - 5:30pm

Watch video of Meta Mazaj presenting the conference

In a day long conference on the future of cinema studies, Penn Cinema Studies Program will bring together scholars, film critics, and film industry practitioners who have stood at the cutting edge of the critical and scholarly debates about the technological and institutional transformations in film and media. On the one hand, the disappearance of the celluloid, the redefinition of the image by the digital technology, and the transformation of theatrical viewing onto heterogeneous spaces and devices has put at stake the very existence of the field’s object of study, and has resulted in a kind of cultural pessimism and an obsessive discourse on the mortality of cinema. On the other hand, these developments were accompanied by a renewed and unprecedented vitality and vigor in cinema, the cinema’s widening sphere of influence, and the rebirth of cinephilia. The disciplinary shifts brought a new understanding of the nature of the moving image, its relationship with the real, as well as a new understanding of the history of the medium. Through a dialogue between acclaimed film scholars, critics, and practitioners, we want to think about the significance of film and media studies today and address the ways in which the convergence that defines the landscape of film and media also coincides with a convergence that is institutional and disciplinary.

This conference is free admission and open to all

Participants include:

Keynote Francesco Casetti is Professor at Yale University in the Humanities and in the Film Program. He is the author of Inside the Gaze. The Fiction Film and its Spectator (Indiana University Press, 1999), Theories of Cinema, 1945-1995 (U Texas Press, 1999), and Eye of the Century. Film, Experience, Modernity (Columbia University Press, 2008). Visiting professor at University of Paris 3, Iowa, and Berkeley. Co-founder (with Jane Gaines) of the Permanent Seminar On Histories of Film Theories. General Editor of the series "Spettacolo e comunicazione" for the publishing house Bompiani, Milano. Prior to his arrival at Yale, he taught for thirty years in Italy, where he served as President of the Society for Film and Media Studies.

Dudley Andrew is the R. Selden Rose Professor of Film and Comparative Literature at Yale. He began his career with three books commenting on film theory, including the biography of André Bazin, whose thought he continues to explore in the recent What Cinema Is! and the edited volume, Opening Bazin. His interest in aesthetics and hermeneutics led to Film in the Aura of Art (1984), and his fascination with French film and culture resulted in Mists of Regret (1995) Popular Front Paris (2005), and the co-edited Companion to Francois Truffaut.

John Belton is Professor of English and Film at Rutgers University. He is the author of five books, including Widescreen Cinema (Harvard, 1992), winner of the 1993 Kraszna Krausz prize for books on the moving image, and American Cinema/American Culture (McGraw Hill, 1994, 2004, 2008, 2013), a textbook written to accompany the PBS series American Cinema. He has edited three books and edits a series of books on film and culture for Columbia University Press. In 2005-2006, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to research a book on digital cinema. In 2008, he received an Academy Fellows grant to research a book on motion picture color.

Mark Betz is a Reader in Film Studies at King’s College, University of London, UK. He is the author of Beyond the Subtitle: Remapping European Art Cinema (Minnesota University Press, 2009) as well as several articles and book chapters on postwar art cinema and film culture, the history of film studies, and the problems (and pleasures) of film categories and concepts.

Francesca Coppa is Professor of English and film studies at Muhlenberg College and the Visiting Wolf Professor of Television Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a founding member of the Organization For Transformative Works, a nonprofit advocacy organization established by fans to provide access to and preserve the history of fanworks and culture. She recently co-edited the Fan/Remix Video issue of Transformative Works and Cultures and is currently writing a history of fan vidding for the University of Iowa press.

Geoff Gilmore is a world expert of independent filmmaking and distribution. He began his career as head of the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s and served as director of the Sundance Film Festival for nineteen years. Geoffrey is currently Chief Creative Officer of Tribeca Enterprises, responsible for the overall direction of the Tribeca Film Festival as well as Tribeca Film, Tribeca’s distribution platform which last year distributed 28 films to 50 million homes across an array of platforms including theatrical, VOD and digital.

Barbara Klinger is President-Elect of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and Interim Chair and Professor in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University in Bloomington. She teaches and writes on cinema and new media, fan and reception studies, and film and media history and historiography. She is author of Melodrama and Meaning: History, Culture, and the Films of Douglas Sirk (Indiana University Press, 1994) and Beyond the Multiplex: Cinema, New Technologies, and the Home (University of California Press, 2006). She has published numerous book chapters and articles in journals, including Film Quarterly, Screen, and Cinema Journal.

Lev Manovich is the author of Software Takes Command (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database (The MIT Press, 2005), and The Language of New Media (The MIT Press, 2001) which is described as "the most suggestive and broad ranging media history since Marshall McLuhan." Manovich is a Professor at The Graduate Center, CUNY, a Director of the Software Studies Initiative, and a Visiting Professor at European Graduate School (EGS).

Jonathan Rosenbaum is the author or coauthor of a dozen books, the most recent of which is Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia (Chicago, 2010). He maintains a blog and web site at

Lynn Spigel is the Frances E. Willard Professor of Screen Cultures at Northwestern University. Her books and anthologies include TV By Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television (University of Chicago Press, 2009); Television after TV: Essays On a Medium in Transition (Duke University Press, 2004, co-edited with Jan Olsson); and Make Room for TV: TV and the Family Ideal in Postwar America (University of Chicago Press, 1992). She is currently a John Simon Guggenheim fellow.

Conference Schedule | Friday, April 12

9:30-10:00am | Opening Remarks | Meta Mazaj 

10:00-11:30am | Deaths and Re-Births of Cinema | Moderated by Karen Beckman

Barbara Klinger, Cinema and Immortality
Countering the ideas that cinema is ‘dead’ and the field in peril, this paper explores the multiple means by which film as a medium continues to thrive in circumstances that appear to challenge its very existence and the nature of its study. In my view, cinema has historically been resurrected and reincarnated through definitive affiliations with other media, from radio and television to the digital. The contemporary climate of convergence, transmedia, and the ‘digital revolution’ has simply made this state of affairs especially visible. Film’s fellow media have long acted as its life support systems and agents of active dissemination (e.g., the TV rerun), while also transforming the experience of the medium itself (e.g., through different delivery systems and different screening locales). Focusing on Hollywood film, I will examine both the protean nature of cinema, given its constant reformulations by other media, and its endurance through these reformulations, developing a notion of cinema and film studies that is less ‘pure’ and more encompassing.

Mark Betz, Recalling the Active Spectator
This paper will examine, in historical as well as practical terms, the construct of the active spectator as it has been manifest in academic film studies. The active spectator makes its first appearance in the 1970s: particular narrative formal strategies (countercinema) were privileged as enabling such a viewing subject , and being an active spectator was considered an essential component of (and in some instances equivalent to) political activism. Active spectatorship underwent considerable rethinking, refraction, and revision in the wake of the cognitive turn of the 1990s, which in certain respects democratized the construct by making it a feature of all film viewing (and thinking) as a conscious and routine activity of the brain. But in relating the film experience to everyday routines of mental processing, the activity of such a spectator can be argued to be a conventionalizing and thus normalizing one. Other types of spectators (emancipated, pensive) have more recently been formulated in the work of Jacques Rancière and Laura Mulvey as well as in the "slow cinema" movement and its adherents. But to what degree have these developments led to the privileging of a cinema of inaction and of a cellularization of the viewing experience? Can recalling the active spectator of the past lead to the instantiation of a different kind of one in the present, one who may answer the call of being an actor in the world outside the film and the cinema?

Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Future of Cinema and the End of Cinema Studies
How do we define and discriminate between ends, continuations, and transformations? And how much is cinema studies dependent on or independent from cinema itself? I'll be discussing diverse practices, institutions, ideals, developments, and hopes. 

11:30am-1:00pm | The Expansion of Cinema | Moderated by Peter Decherney

Lev Manovich, Visualizing Cinema
I will present visualization analysis of the two films by Dziga Vertov: The Eleventh Year (1928) and Man with a Movie Camera (1929). This project is a part of a larger research program to develop techniques for the exploration of massive image and video collections by Software Studies Initiative, the lab which I established in 2007. In this project, I explore how new "media visualization" techniques help us see films in new ways, adding to already well-developed methods and tools in film and media studies.

Lynn Spigel, Eames TV: Media Convergence at Midcentury
This paper recovers the visual field of media convergence in the 1950s-1960s, focusing on the case of Charles and Ray Eames' productions for television. While media convergence has largely been considered as a recent trend involving TV, digital media, and "post-cinema" there was a flurry of interest in the intermedial and multimedia possibilities of commercial TV in its first decades. The Eames were among the pioneers in this regard, merging TV with experiments in film montage, slide presentations, graphic design, animation, and video tape. While their films and multimedia exhibitions are now well documented, their work in TV is virtually unknown. I look at their TV productions for CBS and other broadcast venues, and I place their work in the larger context of midcentury visual environments for business displays, advertising, and eventually more countercultural ideals of expanded cinema and video art. I consider the digital logic of their approach to analog media, a logic that was in line with their interest in computers. And I consider their experiments with regard to larger midcentury ideas about perception, attention, persuasion, and new ways of seeing made possible by the (then) new media. 

Francesca Coppa, "It's Life, Jim, But Not As We Know It": Monstrous and Alien Life
This talk will look at cinematic forms emerging from within fan subcultures and social networks, with particular emphasis on those developed by women, including filmic mashups, fanvids, fan films, and .gif sets. 

2:30-4:00pm | Screens, Digital Histories, Future Trajectories | Moderated by Timothy Corrigan

Dudley Andrew, Cinema Studies in Three Dimensions: Pi in the Sky
If cinema is dying, we can take solace and wisdom from its death and transfiguration around 1929 and again around 1953.  André Bazin was public witness to this latter ordeal.  Never apocalyptic, his reactions to TV, 3D, Scope, and Cinerama brought the kind of clarity to this “new media” landscape that we should emulate as we think about the cinema’s past and future from the space of some new dimension we may have entered.

Geoff Gilmore, The Transformed Landscape of Media and the Future of Film and Film Festivals
The transformation of media from a corporate dominated universe to a one in which a great proliferation of possibilities, choices and opportunities now exist. Geoff will also touch upon the future of film and film festivals. 

John Belton, Bigger than Life: the Future of the Cinema in an Era of Small-Screen Presentation
If motion pictures began as tiny, 1 1/2 inch images on the screen of a peep-show device (the Kinetoscope) that accommodated one viewer at a time, the cinema began when those same images were projected "life-size" on a screen for a mass audience. What does it mean that contemporary motion pictures are now regularly consumed privately or semi-privately on small video screens ranging from domestic television sets to hand-held mobile devices? From the perspective of Rick Altman's "'crisis historiographythe cinema'" identity is always in crisis; it must continually redefine itself in an ever-changing landscape of new imaging technologies.  But does it not then run the risk of continually redefine itself out of existence?  Should there be a point where one must acknowledge that this or that particular platform of motion picture consumption is no longer cinema? The cinema is more than just an object; it is the experience of an object. This paper argues that the experience of a motion picture is different on different size screens and that we must begin to explore the difference among those experiences. The cinema is projection on a screen, life size‚Äîor bigger than life size--images and an audience; everything else is movies.

4:00-5:30pm | Keynote | Francesco Casetti, Cinema, beyond
The so called "death of cinema" is a contradictory process. If on the one hand the dark theatre no longer represents the main venue for enjoying cinema, on the other hand the film experience is very often re-enacted in new spaces, thanks to new devices. Cinema relocates itself in a larger territory. The paper will discuss the ways in which film tries to keep its identity safe, and at the same time it faces the inevitability of change. Through a re-reading of Youngblood, MacLuhan and
Rancière, the paper will unfold cinema's strategies in the digital landscape.


This conference is made possible thanks to the generous support of Mr. Dick Wolf to the Cinema Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. We also acknowledge the collaboration of Slought Foundation.

Organized by Meta Mazaj, with Peter Decherney and Nicola M. Gentili.

Cinema Studies Program
209A Fisher-Bennett Hall ⋅ 3340 Walnut Street ⋅ Philadelphia, PA 19104 ⋅ (215) 898-8782