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Heritage Film Audiences

Period Films and Contemporary Audiences in the UK

Claire Monk

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The concept of 'heritage cinema' is now firmly established as an influential - as well as much-debated and contested - critical framework for the discussion of period or historical representation in film, most prominently with reference to British heritage and 'post-heritage' film successes since the 1980s, but also to comparable examples from Europe, North America and beyond. These successes have ranged from Merchant Ivory's A Room with a View, Maurice, Howards End and The Remains of the Day, via Jane Austen adaptations such as Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility to post-heritage adaptations such as Sally Potter's Orlando. Yet the very idea of the heritage film has rested on untested assumptions about its audiences.

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1. The Heritage Film Debate: From Textual Critique to Audience
2. The Heritage Audience Survey: Methodology and Issues
3. Demographics and Identities: A Portrait of the Survey Respondents
4. Respondents' Film Viewing Habit(u)s
5. Patterns of Film Taste: Period and Non-Period Films
6. Audience Pleasures, Attitudes and Perspectives 1:
Visual Pleasure and Period 'Authenticity', Engagement and Escape
7. Audience Pleasures, Attitudes and Perspectives 2: 'Quality', Literary Pleasures, Adaptation and Cultural Value
8. Conclusions: Period Film Audiences, the Heritage Film Debate, and Audience Studies
List of Appendices
Selective Filmography

About the Author

Claire Monk is Reader in Film and Film Culture at De Montfort University. She has published widely on the heritage film, post-1970 British cinema and the cultural politics of both, and is co-editor of 'British Historical Cinema' (Routledge, 2002).


This book is clearly a major resource and provides solid empirical evidence about the social function of films and in particular about how real people felt about films in a specific time and space. As such, Monk’s book plays an important role in the ongoing debates about the determinants of the reception of images of the past.

- Christine Etherington-Wright, University of Portsmouth, Journal of British Cinema and Television

In what is usually called 'the heritage debate' - and which has involved many of us within film and cultural studies over a long period of time - we have all made endless suppositions about the audiences who watch the films about which we wrangle. A book which actually conducts a proper analysis of these audiences is long overdue. It is doubly pleasing that when this book appears, it should be written by one of the leading proponents within that debate, and written with all Claire Monk's rigourous scholarship, in her inimitable and elegant style.

- Pamela Church Gibson, Reader in Cultural and Historical Studies, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London

Claire Monk’s excellent new book, based on research conducted in the late 1990s, offers new evidence as to how people from different socioeconomic backgrounds in the United Kingdom react to the so-called "heritage film" and/or period drama. Monk’s research tells us a lot about the ways in which individuals consume period films.

- Lawrence Raw, Baskent University, Ankara, Literature/Film Quarterly