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Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

Shadow Economies of Cinema

Mapping Informal Film Distribution

ISBN 9781844575831
Publication Date March 2012
Formats Ebook Hardcover Paperback 
Publisher British Film Institute
Series Cultural Histories of Cinema

How do people access movies today? What are the most popular and powerful channels for media distribution on a global scale? How are film industries changing in the face of media convergence and digitisation?

To answer questions such as these, argues Ramon Lobato, we must shift our gaze away from the legal film business and toward cinema's shadow economies. All around the world, films are bought from roadside stalls, local markets, and grocery stores; they are illegally downloaded and streamed; they are watched in makeshift video clubs, on street corners, and in restaurants, shops and bars. International film culture in its actually-existing forms is a messy affair, and it relies to a great extent on black and grey media markets. Examining the industrial dynamics of these subterranean film networks across a number of different sites – from Los Angeles to Lagos, Melbourne to Mexico City – this book shows how they constitute a central rather than marginal part of audiovisual culture and commerce.

Combining film industry analysis with cultural theory, Shadow Economies of Cinema opens up a new area of inquiry for cinema studies, putting industry research into dialogue with wider debates about economic informality and commodity circulation. Written in an accessible style, this book offers an original 'bottom-up' perspective on the global cinema industry for researchers and students in film studies, cultural studies, and media and communications.

  • Winner of the 2013 Limina Prize For Best International Cinema Studies Book

RAMON LOBATO Research Fellow at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.

Distribution from Above and Below
The Straight-to-video Slaughterhouse
Informal Media Economies
Nollywood at Large
Six Faces of Piracy
The Grey Internet
Conclusion: Coordinates for Studying Distribution in a Digital Age
Appendix: A Film Distribution Research Guide


Shadow Economies of Cinema is a strong addition to the literature on contemporary industry studies. It also demonstrates an admirable grasp of wide range of fields upon which cinema studies is starting to impinge. Lobato ends with a call for cinema studies 'to open up a dialogue with other fields that specialise in cultural circulation from anthropology to economics.' - Screening the Past
'Shadow Economies is a valuable contribution to reimagine the experience of cinema beyond the classic focus on representation. International in its scope, and lucid in its theoretical exposition, it will find interest among academic and non academic readers.' - Senses of Cinema
'From the US video economy to illegal peer-to-peer file sharing, Shadow Economies of Cinema offers a cross-nation, formal/informal mapping of some of the complexities of film distribution, seeking to foreground areas of the field that are largely unquantifiable and do not necessarily appear in the trade press.' - New Review of Film and Television Studies
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