Found online # 5 – cinema websites

The Stella Cinema, Seaforth, from http://goingtothepictures.org.uk

The latest in this occasional series of themed lists of online resources is on a subject of particular interest to me. I’ve spent a good deal of my latter years as a researcher investigating cinemas, and was involved some while ago in producing a database of pre-1914 film venues and businesses in London, still available online as The London Project.

Cinema websites are varied. They range from nostalgic tributes to one venue or the cinemas of a town, to community-based projects, to academic studies, to reference sources, to databases (often overlaid with mapping software) – which are the sites that I particularly value, though they have had a hard time surviving beyond the initial enthusiasm of the projects that generated them. The best of them feature information rigorously collated, categorised and made searchable, but also with a sense of a magical world now lost. Below is a diverse selection of some of the best or most interesting among them.

  • 100 Years of Cinema in Europe – this Anglo-Italian site is 22 years old and looks it, but it is an absolute treasure trove of historical information and statistics on cinemagoing in various European countries. Produced by Media Salles, and thank you to whoever has made the decision to keep it online.
  • After the Final Curtain – American photography site documenting disused theatres and cinemas.
  • Arthur Lloyd – this amazingly fact-packed, image-packed and thoroughouly researched site on British theatres and music halls has plenty of information for the cinema historian because so many of these building included film or were converted into cinemas. It’s maintained by Matthew Lloyd (Arthur was his great-grandfather, a music hall performer).
  • Australian Cinemas Map – thorough and compelling map of Australian cinemas 1948-1971 (based on annual film trade reports) with a handy set of searching tools. Produced by a national research grouped centred on Flinders University.
  • Bug and Flea – an affectionate, well-illustrated and well-researched tribute to pioneer north of England cinema owner Tommy Thompson, produced by cinema historian Peter Hallinan.
  • Cinema Context – the magnificent work of the late Karel Dibbets and his research team at the University of Amsterdam, documenting film distribution and exhibition in the Netherlands in 1896. Endlessly browseable, the model cinema database.
  • Cinema Treasures – a monster site, aiming to become the definitive directory of cinemas past and present across the world. 48,000 listed so far, still growing, and always so useful. Has information on cinemas at risk and listed cinemas.
  • Derelict London – picture site which includes a section of London’s abandoned cinemas.
  • Drive-ins.com – terrific database of drive-in cinemas in the USA, Canada and Australia, with lots of images of deserted screens in empty fields where films were once shown and are no more.
  • The Early Cinema in Scotland – first-rate academic project from the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow on Scottish cinemas 1896-1927, which wins the competition for most stylish cinemas map and has plenty of handy and well-researched background information.
  • The German Early Cinema Database – mostly a site listing information on early films rather than early cinema, but it does include a commendably obscure associated database of fairground cinemas in Germany and neighbouring countries between 1896 and 1926.
  • Going to the Pictures – a model community heritage site, focussing on cinemas in Crosby, Waterloo, Seaforth, Litherland and Bootle
  • Going to the Show – the best of the cinema databases and cinema websites are as nostaglic as they are academic, as delightful to look at as they are compelling to explore. Robert C. Allen’s study and map of moviegoing in North Carolina, based on fire insurance maps is a revelation on every page.
  • HoMER Network – HoMER stands for History of Moviegoing, Exhibition and Reception, an international organisation that brings together those who, when they say they are interested in ‘cinema studies’, do actually mean cinemas. Its Digital HoMER feature maps academic projects from around the world.
  • Islington’s Lost Cinemas – haunting images of the buildings that now stand where cinemas once stood, the work of artist and cultural historian Sam Nightingale.
  • Italian Cinema Audiences – the audiences, the cinemas and the memories for filmgoing in 1950s Italy, from a team of UK university researchers headed by Daniela Treveri Gennari.
  • The London Project – this Birkbeck College database is showing its age a bit, and we produced this record of London’s pre-1914 film venues and business before GPS data came on the scene, but a lot of work went into it and a few have found it useful.
  • London’s Silent Cinema – Chris O’Rourke’s interactive map of London’s silent era cinema complements his evocative and hugely informative blog London Filmland (sadly not added to since 2015).
  • The Mad Cornish Projectionist – enthusiastic news site on cinemas and projection, maintained by Peter J. Knight.
  • Picturegoing – I maintain this site documenting eyewiteness accounts of going to the pictures, since 1635…
  • Picture Palace – dedicated to the history of cinemas in Liverpool, with audio files of the memories of former cinemagoers
  • Scottish Cinemas and Theatres Project – site devoted to recording and archiving Scotland’s cinema architectural heritage, including a database of all known Scottish cinemas, past and present.
  • The Southeast Asia Movie Theatre Project – a photographic record of cinemas in Southeast Asia, “whether operating, abandoned, or repurposed”.
  • Stars in the Aisles – this site on the history of usherettes from Eva Balogh of the University of Portsmouth is such fun, but goes about it seriously.
  • UK Cinemas – an attempted listing of all current UK cinemas, maintained by Dave Simpson

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