‘They’ll be dancing in the aisles!’: Youth audiences, cinema exhibition and the mid-1930s swing boom

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In switching the analytic focus from the sites and strategies of production to those of exhibition and consumption, this article challenges dominant understandings of American cinema culture in the second half of the 1930s. Adopting historical reception studies and programming research approaches, it challenges the idea of the dedifferentiated family audience by demonstrating how a number of metropolitan first-run cinemas and, resultantly, major regional and national exhibition circuits, changed their programming strategies to incorporate the demands and rituals of a committed market of young swing fans. With live music declared ‘the most sought after theatre attractions’ by 1938, the elevation of ‘name’ swing bands and bandleaders to cinema programmes’ ‘A’ attractions undermined Hollywood’s ‘one programme for one audience’ policy and challenged the studios’ hegemony in controlling top product.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-474
Number of pages20
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Issue number3
Early online date29 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • classical Hollywood
  • exhibition
  • audiences
  • youth market
  • swing
  • jitterbug

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