Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Condon, Denis
The Film Company of Ireland’s Distribution and Exhibition Strategies, 1916-21
HoMER@NECS 2018: Media Tactics and Engagement
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
Writing of his period as director at the Film Company of Ireland (FCOI) in the late 1910s, John MacDonagh reveals that one of his films was considered so unacceptable by the British authorities in Ireland that the only way to have it shown was to organize “a few volunteers in fast cars to visit certain cinemas, rush the operator’s box, and, at gun-point, force the operator to take off the film he was showing, and put [it] on.” Although this kind of tactic was rare, FCOI did sometimes adopt other unorthodox distribution and exhibition strategies to ensure its films reached receptive audiences in Ireland and Britain. The most important indigenous Irish film production company of the silent period, FCOI’s strategies were designed to permit its operation not only in a competitive industrial environment already dominated by international distribution companies but also in the revolutionary political circumstances in Ireland in the period after the 1916 Easter Rising. In its initial years of operation, the company sought conventional distribution deals with British firms. In Ireland, the company took care of distribution itself, and it enhanced key engagements by having members of the onscreen cast travel with the films and sing songs at screenings. Although these first films were popular with Irish audiences both in Ireland and Britain, they did not attract a wide enough audience abroad to ensure the company’s financial viability. Despite persisting to make ambitiously lengthy features, the company faced additional problems with the outbreak of the Irish War of Independence (1919-21), which forced such key personnel as MacDonagh to go on the run from the authorities. Ultimately, neither conventional, creative nor revolutionary distribution strategies could prevent the company’s demise in this hostile environment.