Mapping Movies

Exploring the landscape of moving pictures. Because movies come and go, theaters rise and fall, and the audience has to be in place.

Mapping Movies is founded on a simple premise: Where we watch movies matters. To understand the powerful role that movies play shaping culture and identity, we first need to know where they have been seen. We then need to know how they got there, when, under whose auspices, and in what physical conditions and social contexts they were experienced, interpreted, discussed, regulated, acted upon, and remembered by diverse audiences.

Whatever the environment – open air, tent, theater, town hall, church, airplane, hotel, home, school, mobile device, or elsewhere – Mapping Movies explores how people and movies intersect in places that vary and change over time. The goal is to discover the social, technological and industrial forces that create the infrastructure for these intersections, and to map the cultural networks and patterns formed through and upon them. By placing movies in geographical context, the project explores relations between media access, landscape, community, demography, transportation, modernization, and memory. It also probes the limits of mapping as a method and mode for historical research and public engagement.

Jeffrey Klenotic pioneered Mapping Movies as a desktop Geographic Information System (GIS) in 2003. In 2013 it began migrating to Web GIS using the Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA) created by NOAA and the University of New Hampshire. The ERMA version of the project can be accessed via the “Interactive Maps” page in the menu bar of this site.

Going forward, Mapping Movies will tap the power of ERMA to enhance the project’s commitment to mapping as a heuristic process of research and learning. Rather than producing finished maps or closed narratives, the site seeks to create space for diverse users to collaborate, exchange data, and interact with multiple information streams in an open-ended way. Designed to stimulate new research and encourage serendipitous discovery, the project will incorporate a wide mix of historical artifacts and spatial data from both formal and vernacular sources. These materials will reflect the perspectives of multiple spatial locations and social experiences that together constitute a people’s history of movies.