3. Screen heritage exhibition activity in Wales

Image: Valley of Song (1953)
Image: Valley of Song (1953)
This section looks at demand for screen heritage programming, based on two sources of evidence:  analysis of NSSAW outreach and Y Drwm screening records, and a survey of Welsh exhibitors conducted in March and April 2015.

 

National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales

3.1 Until recently, the Archive held community screenings at venues across Wales, involving liaison with a host group on content, curation and travel to the venue with the staff presenter and technician, projector and screen (where these facilities were not available at the venue). Such events could involve overnight costs on top of travel, as well as staff time, and many host groups were unable to cover these costs, resulting in a heavily subsidised service. These outreach screenings continued until 2014 when the Access Manager post was frozen during restructuring and the service was suspended. In response, the Archive is exploring options to make it easier for third parties to hire content for their own screenings, alongside curatorial programme notes for context.

3.2 Nonetheless, it is instructive to look at outreach screening activity, and events hosted at Y Drwm, which provide insights into levels and types of demand for the public performance of screen heritage content in Wales.

3.3 The following analysis is based on screenings and admissions data for the period January 2011 to November 2014 (when the last records were kept).

3.4 Over this time, outreach events generated more admissions than Y Drwm screenings, and higher average attendances per screening, highlighting their importance for extending the Archive’s reach beyond Aberystwyth.

3.5 Between 2011 and 2014, NSSAW delivered an average of 11 outreach screenings per year, which generated annual admissions of 638 (on average), equivalent to 61 attendances per screening:


Table 3.1: Outreach events, by year

Year

Number of events

Total attendances

Average attendance per screening

2011

12

815

68

2012

9

710

79

2013

14*

662*

47

2014 (to November)

7**

365**

52

TOTAL (annual average)

42 (11)

2,552 (638)

61

Source: National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, Bigger Picture Research analysis

* Excludes a screening of The Life of David Lloyd George at The Barbican in London (135 admissions), a screening at the British Silent Film Festival (120 admissions), and a presentation to the Archives and Records Association (15 admissions)

** Excludes screening at an International Federation of Film Archives event in Macedonia (180 admissions) and the rolling screening of railway content at the Slate Museum in Llanberis (275 admissions)

3.6 The largest attendance was 220, for a screening of Valley of Song (1953) at Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea, in 2012, and the smallest involved 15 attendances at a screening for Machynlleth Luncheon Club in 2013.

3.7 Outreach events took place across Wales, but there were significant clusters of activity in Gwynedd and Powys, while no events took place in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham, Isle of Anglesey, Neath Port Talbot, Vale of Glamorgan, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Newport or Monmouthshire.

3.8 One reason for this might be that requests for external events come from community groups likely to pass on recommendations for screenings to other local groups, leading to snowballing demand in the area.


Table 3.2: Outreach events, by local authority, 2011 to 2014

Local authority

Number of events

Total attendances

Average attendance per screening

Gwynedd

15

945

63

Powys

11

565

51

Swansea

4

420

105

Conwy

3

192

64

Carmarthenshire

2

170

85

Shropshire

2

95

48

Ceredigion

3

90

30

Pembrokeshire

1

40

40

Rhondda Cynon Taf

1

35

35

TOTAL

42

2,552

61

Source: National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, Bigger Picture Research analysis

Note: The data do not include four events hosted in Cardiff between 2012 and 2014 for which admissions numbers do not exist.

3.9 Examples of groups that benefited from outreach events fall into three categories (womens’ groups, community groups and local history societies), indicating the range of potential partners for exhibitors looking to work with groups in their local area. Welsh speaking groups were well represented, suggesting a close affinity between interest in screen heritage, cultural history and the Welsh language:


Table 3.3: Groups attending outreach screenings

Womens’ groups

Community groups

Local history societies


Merched y Wawr Cylch Teifi
Merched y Wawr Llanfair Caereinion
Merched y Wawr Penmachno
Merched y Wawr, Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant
Clwyd WI
Clwb Gwawr

 

Cylch y Gader
Oswestry Cultural Society
New Quay Society
Probus Machynlleth
Llangeler Cultural Society
Llwyngwril Cultural Society
Machynlleth Luncheon Club
Tabernacl Chapel Society
Carmel Chapel Centre
Mudian Meithrin (Welsh language nursery movement)

Dolgellau Heritage Society
Llandudno Historical Society
Llansilin Historical Society
Welshpool History Society

 

Source: National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, Bigger Picture Research analysis

3.10 Turning to Archive events at Y Drwm, on average 15 were hosted annually between January 2011 and November 2014, achieving 37 admissions on average.


Table 3.4: Y Drwm Archive events, by year

 

Year

Number of events

Total attendances

Average attendance per screening

2011

10

527

53

2012

24*

666*

28

2013

15

573

38

2014 (to November)

9**

375

42

TOTAL (annual average)

58 (15)

2,141 (535)

37

Source: National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, Bigger Picture Research analysis

* Excludes National Library for Wales Open Day event (875 admissions)

** Excludes two film conservation courses (5 admissions)

3.11 The majority of Archive events, 29, were aimed at general audiences, achieving 1,265 admissions in total (59% of the total).

3.12 Events aimed at younger audiences attracted the highest average attendance (83), compared with 13 for those aimed at community groups, 44 for general audiences and 18 for student events.


Table 3.5: Y Drwm events, by audience group

Audience group

Number of events

Total attendances

Average attendance per screening

General screening audiences

29

1,265

44

Students (FE and HE)

15

277

18

Community groups

8

104

13

Children and young people

6

495

83

TOTAL

58

2,141

37

Source: National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, Bigger Picture Research analysis

3.13 These descriptive statistics help build a picture of existing demand for screen heritage content based on NSSAW’s capacity to deliver events at Y Drwm and outreach presentations until very recently. Consultation evidence suggests many more outreach screenings could have been delivered over this period if the Archive had the staff and resources to do so.

3.14 For a fuller flavour of the range of events hosted by the Archive, including educational workshops, Appendix 3 provides details of screening activity from Archive blog entries published online between 2010 and 2013. Reading through the entries it is clear the majority of outreach events involved screening material with a connection to the local area where the events were held, a theme that is picked up in the next section and whose significance is considered in the concluding discussion.
 

Film exhibitors

3.15 The survey was designed to find out what archive screenings and events Welsh exhibitors hosted from 2011 to the present; their attendance levels; views on the challenges surrounding screen heritage programming; and future plans and opportunities for archive screenings.

3.16 Over half the respondents (53%) said they had screened at least one archive work since 2011, although this includes exhibitors who listed classic repertory titles as examples of archival programming. One in three respondents (32%) included repertory works, showing how wide and flexible the definition of screen heritage content can be.

3.17 As the present research is principally interested in the exhibition of works held in archive or private collections, as opposed to titles for which a commercial screening licence is available from a distributor, the following analyses maintain a distinction between repertory programming and archival screenings.

3.18 After excluding repertory titles, 42% exhibitors had screened at least one work from an archive or private collection since 2011:


Table 3.6: Proportion of exhibitors who have screened at least one archive film since 2011, by booking source

 

%

At least one archival screening since 2011

42%

… sourced from the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales

16%*

… sourced from the BFI National Archive

21%*

… from another source

24%*

No archival screening

58%

Sums more than 42% because some respondents booked archive works from more than one source

3.19 Fewer than one in five (16%) exhibitors had sourced works from the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, compared with 21% who had programmed content from the BFI National Archive and 24% who screened titles from other sources, including:

  • Private collections (e.g. historic advertising reel found in a venue and amateur footage of local events);
  • Audiovisual material held by local archivists and historians;
  • Broadcasters (e.g. BBC Cymru Wales, S4C).

3.20 Respondents who had screened at least one work from an archive or private collection since 2011 were asked what factors influenced their programming choice (Table 3.7). The most common reason for choosing an archive work was the subject matter had local interest (38%), while a quarter of exhibitors wanted to show something different to their contemporary film programme.


Table 3.7: Reasons that guided programming choice of archive film

Reasons

Yes %

The subject matter had local interest

38%

We wanted to show something different to our contemporary film programme

25%

The screening was part of a wider event or festival

19%

We had funding or other support to put on an archive screening

12%

We worked in partnership with a local group or education institution

12%

We ran the screening in partnership with the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales

6%

We responded to audience demand

-

3.21 Interestingly, none of the exhibitors gave ‘response to audience demand’ as a reason for choosing to screen an archive work, which suggests decisions are subject to different considerations to regular programming.

3.22 For example, when selecting a screening programme of first or second run features, among other factors exhibitors will take into account each title’s public profile and market performance, built up from marketing and promotional activity, festival appearances, awards buzz, preview screenings, reviews, prior box office and so on. These elements feed and shape audience demand for a film ahead of release, building awareness of forthcoming titles that programmers use to judge each film’s playability at a particular point in their schedule.

3.23 These factors rarely apply to archive works (except in the case of re-released archival classics, which may be distributed and marketed in the same way as other feature works), so the assessment of ‘playability’ needs to be judged on the basis of other factors like the local interest of the subject matter, appeal to specific audience groups in the area (like community groups, local history societies etc.) and the like.

3.24 Looking at the number of titles given by exhibitors as examples of their most recent archival screenings (which range from footage of local carnival events to S4C’s Academy Award nominated feature Hedd Wyn (1992)), it is clear that archive works make up only a tiny proportion of annual programming slots. In most cases, exhibitors will screen only one or two such works a year, if that.

3.25 The majority (67%) of exhibitors who had screened at least one archive work since 2011 said they would like to programme more, and only one exhibitor said they would not, citing the reason that archive film is of limited interest to their core audience.


Table 3.8: Would you like to programme more archive film?                

 

Number

%

Yes

6

67%

No

1

11%

Don’t know

2

22%

Total

9

100%

3.26 Because respondents supplied only a small number of archive titles as examples of works screened since 2011, there is little to learn from the admissions numbers they attracted, which ranged in size from 11 to 233 (Table 3.9), other than to observe that some screenings attracted sizeable audiences and others did not.

3.27 Encouragingly, only one screening performed worse than expected (a performance of The Life Story of David Lloyd George, from the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, in 2011), while three others attracted larger audiences than anticipated.


Table 3.9: Examples of archive titles screened since 2011, ranked by admissions                

Title or description

Year screened

Admissions

Better, worse or in line with expectation?

The Five Doctors (1983, originally a TV broadcast)

2015

233

Better

Life in New Quay in the 50's/60's & untitled Dylan Thomas film

2014

140

Better

Hedd Wyn (1992)

2015

136

In line

The Battles of Coronel and the Falkland Islands (1927)

2014

129

Better

A Night at the Cinema in 1914 (2014)

2014

50

Better

Local carnival events over the last 20 years

2014

40

In line

The Life Story of David Lloyd George (1918)

2011

11

Worse

3.28 By way of comparison, Table 3.10 lists the repertory titles given as examples of archive works, along with their admissions, which show a similar spread of performance and the success of perennial favourites like Casablanca and The General:


Table 3.10: Examples of repertory titles screened since 2011, ranked by admissions                      

Title or description

Year screened

Admissions

Better, worse or in line with expectation?

Nosferatu (1922)

2014

160

Better

Casablanca (1942)

2015

108

In line

Fantasia (1940)

2015

76

Better

The General (1926)

2014

75

Better

Turksib (1929) and Night Mail (1936)

2012

50

Better

Love Letters (1945) and Live Wires (1946)

2011

43

Better

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

2015

41

In line

The City of Lost Children (1995)

2014

33

Worse

Drifters (1929) with live score

2015

28

Worse

Resistance (2011)

Not stated

Not stated

Better

 

In summary:

  • Archive programming, even when including repertory titles within this category, remains a relatively small part of most exhibitors’ schedules.
  • Yet there is undoubted demand for screen heritage screenings, as NSSAW’s outreach programme demonstrated when it was active, and archive content is capable of attracting sizeable audiences.
  • The current cessation of NSSAW outreach activity means this demand is going largely unmet, presenting an opportunity for exhibitors to serve their own audience development needs while promoting access to archive collections.

 

Go back to CONTENTS

Go to DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS: Appendix 1: Research methods