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The Viewers’ Choice

On the Film Preferences of Cinemagoers in the GDR, 1949-1990



Colosseum cinema in Berlin, 1959
Ticket for the Capitol cinema in Berlin-Adlershof, 1969
Matchbook with film advertising, 1971

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Joseph Garncarz, Akademischer Rat
Research assistant: Magistra Christina Muschol
Funding Institution: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) – GA 460/9-1
Duration: April 2021 until March 2024

A study of popular taste embodied in films can help us to better understand German culture and society. The aim of the research project is to work out the film preferences of cinemagoers in the GDR between 1949 and 1990. To this end, the project will determine how successful all of the approximately 5,000 films shown in cinemas in the GDR were with East German cinemagoers, who bought a total of 5.7 billion tickets at the box office. The success of the films will be documented in the form of 40 annual film success rankings based on a representative sample using the POPSTAT method developed by Sedgwick (2000) and further developed by Garncarz (2021). The GDR film success rankings will be compared with those of the Federal Republic of Germany in the same period, which Garncarz (2013) has already collected, evaluated and published. An explorative preliminary study on the basis of available, selective success data show that the film preferences of East and West German cinema audiences were initially similar before diverging and then converging again. Thus, socio-politically relevant insights into the preferences and mentalities of GDR citizens (and their change) can be expected through this study, in addition to detailed preference findings.

Literature:

  • Garncarz, Joseph (2021): Begeisterte Zuschauer: Die Macht des Kinopublikums in der NS-Diktatur. Köln: Herbert von Halem.
  • Garncarz, Joseph (2013): Hollywood in Deutschland: Zur Internationalisierung der Kinokultur, 1925-1990. Stroemfeld: Frankfurt am Main and Basel.
  • Sedgwick, John (2000): Popular Filmgoing in 1930s Britain: A Choice of Pleasures. Exeter: University of Exeter Press.