[CDA] PhD opportunity

[CDA] PhD opportunity

Collaborative Doctorate: The Role of Independent Cinema in the Age of On-Demand Culture

SIRG are delighted to say that UWE Bristol in collaboration with Exeter University and Watershed Cultural Cinema is offering a fully-funded, co-supervised collaborative doctorate The Role of Independent Cinema in the Age of On-Demand Cultureas part of the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership.

Full details of the CDA and how to apply can be found here: https://www.sww-ahdtp.ac.uk/prospective-students/apply/. Applications must be in by 23.59 on 16 January 2023.

Interested applicants who wish to have an informal discussion should contact Professor Andrew Spicer: andrew2.spicer@uwe.ac.uk

Summary given below:


Over the last decade, independent cinema exhibition has faced major challenges stemming from transformations in the ways in which films are distributed, exhibited and consumed, most notably from the rise in streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+, which offer subscribers a huge choice of feature films and documentaries at a single click. More recently, both Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic have had far-reaching impact on the independent sector, which adds further importance and urgency to this enquiry. Using Watershed as the central case-study, this project will investigate how these three factors have affected independent cinema’s approach to film exhibition, curation, audience development and community-building; its relationships with distributors, funders and policymakers at local, regional, national and international levels; and the strategies the sector has developed to adjust and even survive in an era of on-demand culture.

The knowledge and evidence base built up by this doctoral research will be crucial in helping Watershed, as one of the UK’s leading independent cinemas and the British Film Institute’s Film Hub Lead Organisation (FHLO) for the South West, to help its development of the independent exhibition sector locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The knowledge gained through this project will enable Watershed – and the independent exhibition sector as a whole – to continue to play an effective cultural role in developing diverse audience tastes, and supporting a wide range of filmmaking practices being made available, ones that a market-led approach could not sustain. This project is thus an opportunity to make a real difference to how audiences engage with film.

Possible Research questions

This investigation of independent cinema exhibition demands in-depth analysis of exhibition practices alongside a broad understanding of the complex and shifting contextual frameworks – cultural, historical, industrial, political and regulatory – within which those practices take place. Likely research questions are:

  • How have the challenges of on-demand culture, Brexit and the post-pandemic shaped the business strategies and programming practices of independent cinema exhibition?
  • In what ways do the policies and priorities of funders and regulators – centrally the BFI’s 2033 strategy and its Film Audience Network – affect the operations of independent cinemas? How effective are existing policy mechanisms at supporting the sector, and how might they be improved?
  • What cultural role do independent cinemas play and how might that role be sustained?