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This volume brings together writing on the topic of home media, and in particular releases described as appealing to ‘cult’ fans and audiences. Despite popular assumptions to the contrary, the distributors of physical media maintain a vivid presence in the digital age. Perhaps more so than any other category of film or media, this is especially the case with titles considered ‘cult’ and its related processes of distribution and exhibition. The chapters in this collection chart such uses and definitions of ‘cult’, ranging from home media re-releases to promotional events, film screenings, file-sharing and the exploitation of established fan communities. This book will be of interest to the ever-growing number of academics and research students that are specializing in studies of cult cinema and fan practices, as well as professionals (filmmakers, journalists, promoters) who are familiar with these types of films.




The introduction considers the context of the home media industry; previous discussions and studies of cult and their home media releases; and contemplates how home media releases complicate definitions of cult, as demonstrated through case studies. The aim of the introduction is to show how the book intervenes and progresses debates and investigations of both cult film and home media research, as well as outlining summaries of the contributor’s chapters and their key arguments.
Jonathan Wroot, Andy Willis

The Cult Business: Creating Consumption


Battle Royale as a One-Film Franchise: Charting a Commercial Phenomenon Through Cult DVD and Blu-ray Releases

The term cult has regularly been attached to Battle Royale (dir. Kinji Fukasaku, 2000) ever since it was first released in the UK. Tartan Video first used the term, and Arrow Video have gone on to do the same recently, but via a variety of its sub-labels. Charting the UK DVD releases of Battle Royale also tracks differing uses of the term cult; presents the significance of DVD releases and re-releases within film research; and considers the impact that film distributors have on cult and its various meanings. The film itself charts cult’s various meanings and definitions, as do its home media releases. In particular, the DVD distributors use cult in several ways, instead of using it as a fixed category to characterise and market films.
Jonathan Wroot

Whose Canon is it Anyway?: Subcultural Capital, Cultural Distinction and Value in High Art and Low Culture Film Distribution

The branding of video and DVD labels is nothing new; but historically the companies that have practiced this form of promotion have tended to align themselves with specific quarters of the industry, most visibly arising from cult and marginal film markets, or from prestige and art film markets. However, in recent years, there has been a blurring of these categories as both sectors extend their catalogue into what would have historically been understood as others’ territory, while both still seek to position these new additions as canonical titles. Using examples from Arrow Video, The British Film Institute and The Criterion Collection, this chapter explores how distributors have both branded themselves and promoted their respective catalogues, while analysing the converging trajectories of high art and low culture.
Mark McKenna

A “Cult-like” Following: Nordic Noir, Nordicana and Arrow Films’ Bridging of Subcultural/Neocultural Capital

Work on “Nordic Noir” in the UK has focused on channel brands such as BBC Four whilst downplaying Arrow Films’ participation in Nordicana and its distribution of TV shows on DVD/Blu-ray. I will re-open the question of Arrow’s agency as a distributor (Wroot 2015), addressing how Arrow Films has sought to materially channel fan affects via Nordicana and DVD signings. Arrow’s involvement in Nordic Noir as well as B-movie/genre cinema suggests that the label needs to be theorised as multi-discursive in terms of its “cult positioning” (Mathijs and Sexton 2011: 238). Arrow’s championing of Nordic Noir can be read as a mode of “cult-art” TV that combines emergent cultural legitimacy and fan-cultural appreciation through distribution and branding, yet without clear subcultural capital.
Matt Hills

Restoration, Restoration, Restoration: Charting the Changing Appearance of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on British Home Video

Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) became a regular fixture on British television screens from the mid-1970s onwards. The film has also enjoyed wide distribution in the UK via a variety of VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray releases. However, these different home video releases have resulted in the film undergoing several formal changes over the years—prompting fans to purchase multiple copies on multiple formats. As such, the story of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on British home video has been one of ongoing “restoration”, be it via the re-insertion of BBFC-enforced cuts; widescreen re-masters; the restoration of scenes from the original Italian version (complete with newly dubbed English voices); the addition of new sound effects; or the introduction of exaggerated colour timings. This chapter charts these changes while considering the reactions of fans and consumers to these alterations.
Lee Broughton

It’s Only Teenage Wasteland: The Home Media Revival of Freaks and Geeks

This chapter explores the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of Freaks and Geeks and its status as a cult programme, a label that is in part linked to the programme’s struggle to be broadcast and then released. It considers one of the main barriers to Freaks and Geeks’ home media release, the licensing of the vast amount of music used in the programme, and how crucial the music is to its construction, both aurally and narratively. It also examines how Freaks and Geeks offers audiences a glimpse ‘back in time’ to before the majority of its stars were famous, a time capsule of talent that would fully emerge during the 2000s.
Katie Barnett

Cult Practices: The Consumption and Reception of Cult Media


Cult Fandom and Experiential Cinema

The persistence of domestic media formats and the exponential growth of on-demand consumption have coincided with a notable rise in the presence and popularity of live and immersive film-based events—a trend known as experiential cinema (Atkinson and Kennedy, 2016). Despite the apparent novelty of such events, this chapter explores how these immersive experiences can be situated within a deeper history of cult fandom. In particular, an emphasis is placed on the active and subversive reception fostered by the cult community and how the advent and rise of domestic media technology served to domesticate cult fandom, turning a very public practice into a private one. Whilst there are clear differences between the current trend of experiential cinema and the historical practice of cult fandom, this chapter argues that the two share a form of active and communal reception rooted in a conscious display of public performance. This is explored through a focus on the events company, Secret Cinema, which has developed a strong reputation for staging immersive and elaborate film experiences.
E. W. Nikdel

Pirates and Proprietary Rights: Perceptions of ‘Ownership’ and Media Objects Within Filesharing Communities

For film audiences, the move from analogue to digital brings with it an increased opportunity to access (and adapt) the constituent parts of a film. Within the context of online piracy, the media ‘objects’ shared are necessarily already disconnected from this final ‘product’ form. Furthermore, the file sharers discussed herein suggest that certain proprietorial rights are accorded to them because of the creative labour involved in modifying and sharing films within their community. However, due to what the community members acknowledge as the ‘illegal’ nature of their activities, their understandings of ownership become both complicated and conflicted. Thus, this chapter will examine how these file sharers engage with these consumer film ‘products’ and how such actions are interconnected with their practices of intangible product piracy.
Virginia Crisp

On Vidding: The Home Media Archive and Vernacular Historiography

Vids are derived from television and film sources, and approximate the music video in appearance and duration, but are non-commercial fan works which construct creative and critical analyses of existing media. They are made from personal home media collections, and reveal home media as a rich archival source. In this chapter, I argue that the home media collection has created conditions for media fans’ creative expression and critical analysis. Vids are investigated from the VCR era, the antecedents of the current digital vid form, with particular focus on vids made of Star Trek and its spin-offs. Significantly, Star Trek vids which use clips from both the original series and the films point to an erasure of medium-specificity in a home media context.
E. Charlotte Stevens

The Dragon Lives Again: Distributing ‘Bruceploitation’ via Home Entertainment

This chapter considers exploitation filmmaking as an industrial, economic concept. The focus of our study is an exploitation film industry known as ‘Bruceploitation’. Achieving momentum in the 1970s and early 1980s, this industry mainly comprised independent producers that sought to posthumously exploit the stardom of Bruce Lee by producing films featuring look-a-likes of the late martial artist and actor. Through this research, we have discovered that Bruceploitation provides an insight not only into the political, economic and cultural implications of satisfying demand for Bruce Lee films following his untimely death in 1973, but more importantly, the ongoing significance of exploitation as an economic model of film production and distribution.
Oliver Carter, Simon Barber

Bollywood DVD: The Relationship Between Distributive Technology and Content in Transnational Cinema

Academic attempts to understand the impact of DVD on film texts and markets have been primarily focused on ‘Hollywood’ filmmaking. This chapter offers an attempt to combine an analysis of film texts with a consideration of how cultural, generic and industrial production beyond Hollywood can impact on how DVD technologies are used. I trace a particular historical period of transnational DVD production emanating from popular Hindi-language cinema in order to chart how and where the distinctive traces of filmgoing and filmmaking practices from within that industry have impacted on its transnational dissemination. In doing so, I challenge the conceptualisations of genre and national cinema that have shaped the debates about DVD’s significance to the global film economy.
Rayna Denison

The Sustained Popularity of In the Mood for Love: Cultural Consumption in Britain’s Reception Context

In the Mood for Love (2000) has retained Britain’s attention since its initial release over fifteen years ago. A staple on most undergraduate film studies courses, Wong Kar Wai’s critically lauded production sits at the top of numerous “Greatest Films of all Time” lists and is regularly screened in British cinemas. In tracing the reception of In the Mood for Love, this chapter suggests that a large part of the film’s reputation is maintained by a contradictory negotiation of its “Chineseness”. Aided by a mobilisation of Wong Kar Wai’s auteur brand, this flexibility benefits from a dismissal of Hong Kong’s commercial film industry, suggesting a growing incompatibility between the expectations of Britain’s critical and commercial cultures with the contemporary practises of international film industries.
Fraser Elliott


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