This chapter surveys the ways in which the history of film exhibition has been conceptualized and elaborated by film historians, with special attention paid to the possibilities of an expanded current historiographical approach that includes small film technologies, in particular, portable film projectors. Like theatrical exhibition, the portable projector exemplifies the nineteenth-century marriage of mechanical movement, chemistry, and projected light. Yet, the portable projector is a distinct iteration of these technological foundations, leaving behind the theatrical armature of the movie house and emulating more the other small, audiovisual technologies that together reshaped cultural life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Charting a neglected area of film and media history, this chapter considers the dynamics of portability for a history of seeing movies, concluding with some larger research questions posed as directions for future work.
From the perspective of the film historian, cinema's past is far less certain than its future. This familiar if slightly amended aphorism takes on particular meaning in our contemporary context wherein death knells for cinema (or at least celluloid) are common. To be sure, mobile screens, digital cameras, and YouTube indicate the technological conditions for a moving-image culture currently undergoing rapid change. The formal qualities of moving images ...