Pop(-up)ular Culture at the Seaside: The British Pleasure Pier as Screening Space

Lavinia Brydon, Olu Jenzen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


This chapter explores a set of enquiries situated at the intersections of cinema-as-event, community cinema and the current cultural development of ‘re-purposing’ seaside piers as community spaces. Drawing on empirical explorations of pop-up cinema on seaside piers, it seeks to historicise the relationship between cinematic viewing practices and Victorian seaside piers, as well as to investigate the role of outdoor cinema in the changing landscape of contemporary seaside resort entertainment. The case studies presented here also illustrate the potential of outdoor deck-top cinema as an immersive cinema experience when the seascape and the sounds of the natural surroundings blend with the film’s mise-en-scène. Investigating the emergence of pop-up cinema in this environment, the chapter gives particular attention to the potential of this contemporary mode of film exhibition for the purpose of community cinema and the rejuvenation of piers. In order to illuminate how outdoor cinema sits within the wider (audio-visual) popular cultural heritage of piers and, more broadly, the British seaside resort, the chapter draws on literature from a range of disciplines including (but not limited to) Film Studies, Tourism and Leisure Studies and Cultural History. It introduces the question of the pier as part of the proto-cinematic imagination, considering how Victorian seaside architecture connects with other forms of aesthetic design, namely the picturesque, and can be seen to anticipate the particular spatiovisual pleasures of cinema. There is also consideration of how the case study screenings fit with the term ‘pop-up’, used increasingly across a wide range of contexts and discourses including pop-up shops, restaurants, nightclubs, art exhibitions as well as cinema. Here, the chapter details the benefits and limitations of the pop-up model, noting that its playfulness often goes hand in hand with precarity. As such, pop-up events need to be carefully positioned within any regeneration strategy. In this chapter, however, we ultimately argue that pop-up cinema is conducive to the architecture of the open plan piers and fits the more events-orientated operational model adopted by pier organisations aspiring to set new goals for the functions of traditional Victorian seaside piers in the twenty-first century. While we note that the pop-up cinema model for seaside piers is technically challenging and audience uptake vulnerable due to the seaside pier deck as an exhibiting space being more exposed to the weather conditions than most other open-air cinema locations, it is encouraging to see that in the year after our research was conducted both piers participating in this project continued with small scale repertoires of deck-top cinema and the cinematic tradition of piers may well have a future in pop-up cinema.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLive Cinema
Subtitle of host publicationCultures, Economies, Aesthetics
EditorsSarah Atkinson, Helen W. Kennedy
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781501324833
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Bloomsbury Academic in Live Cinema: Cultures, Economies, Aesthetics on 28/12/2017, available online: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/live-cinema-9781501324857/


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