Screen Traffic

Movies, Multiplexes, and Global Culture

Screen Traffic

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 16 illus., 34 tables Published: November 2003

Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Film

In Screen Traffic, Charles R. Acland examines how, since the mid-1980s, the U.S. commercial movie business has altered conceptions of moviegoing both within the industry and among audiences. He shows how studios, in their increasing reliance on revenues from international audiences and from the ancillary markets of television, videotape, DVD, and pay-per-view, have cultivated an understanding of their commodities as mutating global products. Consequently, the cultural practice of moviegoing has changed significantly, as has the place of the cinema in relation to other sites of leisure.

Integrating film and cultural theory with close analysis of promotional materials, entertainment news, trade publications, and economic reports, Acland presents an array of evidence for the new understanding of movies and moviegoing that has developed within popular culture and the entertainment industry. In particular, he dissects a key development: the rise of the megaplex, characterized by large auditoriums, plentiful screens, and consumer activities other than film viewing. He traces its genesis from the re-entry of studios into the movie exhibition business in 1986 through 1998, when reports of the economic destabilization of exhibition began to surface, just as the rise of so-called e-cinema signaled another wave of change. Documenting the current tendency toward an accelerated cinema culture, one that appears to arrive simultaneously for everyone, everywhere, Screen Traffic unearths and critiques the corporate and cultural forces contributing to the “felt internationalism” of our global era.


Screen Traffic is an exemplary investigation into the practice and spatiality of film spectatorship.… Screen Traffic contributes to globalization and cultural studies by making a strong case for the need to set film theory in a global context….” — James McDougall , Journal of Film and Video

“Ambitiously conceived, provocative and well written, Screen Traffic is a welcome addition to the literature on film culture and should become a reference point for all future discussions of filmgoing and globalization.” — Zoë Druick , Canadian Journal of Film Studies

"Screen Traffic addresses the recent, fundamental shifts in cinema, yet it also is about nothing less than the spatial, temporal, and 'intermedial' reorganization of everyday life. Indeed, what's remarkable about this book is its relevance to-and resonance with-recent changes in other media industries, including book and music publishing." — Ted Striphas , Cultural Studies

"Screen Traffic is a creative blend of both fact and theory. It begins from a current observable transformation of the film industry: moviegoing and megaplexes--to which it adds both policy reflection and cultural studies. Acland is to be commended for his innovative and engaging scholarship, which not only provides insight to the cultural practices and commercial realities of cinema culture, but also stands as an excellent resource for communication scholars interested in work on global products and the global audience. Rather than merely draw upon the work of other authors, Acland's book will itself become an inspiration to other authors." — 2004 Robinson Book Prize Committee

"[A]n impressive feat. Charles Acland's Screen Traffic deserves to reach a broad, international audience." — Ted Magder , Canadian Journal of Communication

"[P]ersuasive. . . . [T]he real value . . . of the book is its evocative presentation of Global Hollywood as it relates to Canadian audiences and the recent history of attempts to capture this audience. . . . In its presentation of the history, the book . . . can be enjoyed simply as an account of the institution through the period." — John McCullough , Topia

"[R]efreshing. . . . Acland's deliberate merging of popular culture, industry discourse and economic data mark Screen Traffic as a fascinating contribution to cinema theory. . . . Screen Traffic provides a much needed amount of accelerated media culture at the end of the twentieth century. . . . [A]n insightful and thought provoking analysis of the globalized and cross-marketed media landscape." — Leanne Downing, Screening the Past

"Acland's work in Screen Traffic is representative of truly impressive research combined with a number of original theoretical ideas that provide a fresh perspective on the binary arguments that normally characterize discussions of globalization." — Nancy Fallen , Velvet Light Trap

"What’s there to say about the much-maligned or taken-for granted megaplex? Plenty, Charles R.Acland proves in Screen Traffic, a challenging, meticulously researched, theoretically engaged, convincingly argued book." — Gregory A. Walker , Film Quarterly

“Drawing upon economic data, promotional material, fandom, and the trade press, Charles R. Acland takes his study of contemporary cinema culture into the busy intersection of debates about post-national and post-cinematic audiences. Acland assesses the cross-marketed media landscape—megaplexes, television, videotapes, DVDs, fast-food, music, and the web—and deftly maps the global consequences of traffic across these new forms of mobilized visuality.” — Anne Friedberg, University of Southern California

“We need a book about global audiences that is smart about theory and chock-full of facts. Charles R. Acland has delivered one, an incisive blend of cultural and cinema studies. Buy it, get it, plunder it!” — Toby Miller, coauthor of Global Hollywood


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Charles R. Acland is Associate Professor of Communications Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. He is the author of Youth, Murder, Spectacle: The Cultural Politics of “Youth in Crisis” and coeditor of Harold Innis in the New Century: Reflections and Refractions.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Tables and Figures vii

Acknowledgments ix

I. Theorizing Contemporary Cinemagoing

1. Global Alliances and the Current Cinema 3

2. Traveling Cultures, Mutating Commodities 23

3. Matinees, Summers, and the Practice of Cinemagoing 45

II. Structures of Cinematic Experience

4. Crisis and Settlement in Exhibition and Distribution 85

5. "Here Come the Megaplexes" 107

6. Zones and Speeds of International Cinematic Life 130

7. Northern Screens 163

8. The Miniaturization of the Theme Park, or After the "Death" of Cinema 196

9. Cinemagoing as "Felt Internationalism" 229


1. Screens per Million Population 247

2. World Screen Count 250

3. National Average Cinema Admissions per Person (annual) 253

4. Multiplexing in Europe 256

5. MPAA's Goals for Digital Cinema 257

6. Existing Digital Cinemas, 2000 259

7. Digital Movies Released for DLP Projectors 261

Notes 263

Bibliography 299

Index 325
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2004 Robinson Book Prize, Canadian Communication Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3163-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3175-9
Publicity material