From distribution to circulation studies: mapping Italian films abroad

Dom Holdaway, Massimo Scaglioni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article begins with the observation that, in the era of media convergence and abundance, the consumption of audio-visual media occurs in such a fragmentary and ‘informal’ way that to speak simply of ‘distribution’ is no longer sufficient. Though it remains relevant – as demonstrated by the continued centrality of the box office – this term implies a vertical, closed economic process which overshadows other viewing processes (institutional and non-). The article thus proposes adopting the term ‘circulation’, which instead would allow scholars to map out the movement of audio-visual products in various (geographic, technological) contexts, in order then to question cinema’s cultural impact in a broader and more exhaustive way. Following a theoretical reflection on circulation and the conception of national cinema, the article reflects on the case of Italy. The discussion then presents the results of a quantitative analy¬sis of box-office data – which is justified as a fundamental starting point for reflections on circula¬tion. The second and third parts illustrates the shortcomings of Italian cinema in particular from a comparative perspective, identifying the potential successful circulation models, and national cin¬emas within the European Union. The fourth examines the European markets where Italian cine¬ma finds the most significant audiences, thus signalling its various strategic circulation patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-355
Number of pages15
JournalComunicazioni Sociali
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Italian cinema
  • circulation
  • national cinema
  • theatrical distribution


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