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Joseph Garncarz (Siegen)

Popularity and Early Cinema

Film historians do not know very much about the popularity of early films, because almost no box-office revenues or surveys are available. The Siegen research project developed a method for measuring the popularity of early films in Germany on a nation-wide basis. We created a database of programs advertised by stationary cinemas between 1905 and 1914 in nine German cities of representative size and geographical distribution. On this basis, we compiled a list of the films most popular with German audiences. Firstly, I will explain the research value of such a database. Secondly, I will present our database and discuss sources, data collection, scope, validity, and its use for measuring the popularity of films. Thirdly, I will present preliminary results. One of our findings is that audiences played a crucial role in the emergence of the institution of cinema - a previously neglected factor.