The history of the online film journal

Senses of Cinema is one of the first online film journals of its kind and has set the standard for professional, high quality film-related content on the Internet.

It was founded in late 1999 to address the absence in Australian film culture of an informed, serious and passionate cinema magazine. Soon after its launch, Senses of Cinema garnered the interest, enthusiasm and respect of readers worldwide. Not only did it fill a distinct gap in local film culture, it also apparently spoke to an international readership in search of and aligned with the journal’s ideals and philosophy.

Over a decade later, Senses of Cinema is still serving its original mission and attracting readers from around the globe.

Senses of Cinema was modelled on magazines such as Cahiers du cinéma (France), Positif (France), Film Comment (USA), Cineaste (USA), Skrien (Netherlands), and Close-Up (Italy). It has always sought to straddle the two extremes of journalism and the academy and to settle on ground somewhere in between, where critical and intellectual ideas of cinema mix with subjective thoughts and feelings, and where the politics of cinema and the mass media at large can be rigorously discussed in an accessible and eclectic manner.

Senses of Cinema has always sought to preserve its independence and its commitment to covering the whole of cinema. Its primary means of survival thus far has been public funding.

Senses of Cinema has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings. Its inaugural issue contained eight articles and the journal itself was organised into contents, links, top tens and editorial. Since that time, Senses of Cinema has published over 2,000 articles (all freely available) and expanded to include new sections, such as the Great Directors critical database. It has more recently undergone a major website redesign, consolidating its various components and overall organisation to reflect its core business of film criticism and to maximise user-friendliness and ease of navigation.

Senses of Cinema was originally released monthly. From August 2000, this changed to bi-monthly, and from 2004 issues have been released on a quarterly basis.

Senses of Cinema is published by Senses of Cinema Inc., a not for profit organisation.

Testimonials for senses of cinema online journal

The following are excerpts from letters of support received in late 2003.

Apart from personally being an ardent follower of Senses of Cinema, there’s no doubt that this online publication has garnered considerable respect internationally within the film community as an intellectually rigorous – though nonetheless inclusive (in editorial tone) – site for substantial engagement with film culture.

– James Hewison (Executive Director, Melbourne International Film Festival)

Senses of Cinema is an invaluable source of research and information regarding all aspects of cinema as artistic and social expression. It publishes at a level both accessible and of a high academic standard, making it a much referenced and utilised source within undergraduate and post graduate university degree courses on film. Contents are usually what can be regarded as cutting edge both in their theoretical content and topics explored.

– Dr Patricia MacCormack (Lecturer, Department of Communication and Film, School of Arts and Letters, Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge, UK)

If you think that online writing is sloppy, vague, filled with approximate facts, questionable theories and spelling mistakes, please read Senses of Cinema. It’s a curated magazine in the best sense of the term. The editors work in collaboration with experienced writers, while fostering new talents. (…) The issues are both eclectic – to render the rich diversity of world cinema – and thematically organized. (…) Senses of Cinema keeps a savvy balance between intelligent, well-informed criticism designed for a larger audience of non-specialists, and scholarly rigor. It is always a great pleasure, as well as a source of reflection and information, to read the latest issue of the magazine. (…) By exploring the multiple meanings that cinematic practices offer to a viewer, a reader or a writer, Senses of Cinema has successfully posited itself at the crest of the most important, most fruitful, and most exciting debates about the future of “the cinemas”.

– Bérénice Reynaud (Lecturer, California Institute of the Arts, Correspondent, San Sebastian International Film Festival & Viennale, Author New Chinas/New Cinemas and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness)

Senses of Cinema has filled a huge vacuum in Australian screen culture by providing a space for intelligent, well-informed, opinionated film criticism… (…) I like its breadth of focus, the diversity of opinion, and the fact that on the net one can run essays of some depth.

– Julie Rigg (film critic for Radio National, Australia)

It is my opinion that for Australian film writers, practitioners and theorists, Senses of Cinema is the most important and crucial of current film journals.

– Christos Tsiolkas (novelist and film critic)

Senses of Cinema‘s equal recognition of so-called ‘avant-garde’ (or artists’ film and video) alongside mainstream and independent feature films is an important and admirable principle. With its thorough review sections, original articles and the “great director” profiles, this online magazine provides a wide-ranging and intelligent view of historical and contemporary moving image works. (…) Senses of Cinema is internationally recognised as one of the few important, active, English language journals of film critique, and it is significant that it has developed as an online resource. (…) In a period when many forecasters offer the gloomy, unrealistic view that the end of film is nigh, to be replaced by new media, Senses of Cinema demonstrates that film culture is well and truly alive and thriving, and that emerging technologies can be used to enhance and enrich our understanding of this art form.

– Mark Webber (independent curator of artists’ film and video).

The Readership and audiences of our online cinema journal

Since its inception, Senses of Cinema has spoken to and joined together a range of audiences – students, filmmakers, theoreticians, programmers, writers, and the unaffiliated film buff. The common point linking these diverse readers has been a genuine love of and curiosity about the medium.

In February 2004, Senses of Cinema ran a readership survey, enabling the publication to collect for the first time raw data pertaining to its readership. 512 surveys were completed, providing a fair indication of the main characteristics of the Senses of Cinema readership. Some of the results are listed below.

General information about readers of the online film journal

The journal attracts readers from across all age groups, with particular emphasis on the 25-34 age bracket.

The journal attracts readers from over 50 countries across all continents, including such remote places as Colombia, Afghanistan, Aruba, Sri Lanka, Peru, Uzbekistan and Slovenia. Just over half of the readers, however, come from English-speaking countries such as the USA, Australia, the UK and Canada.

The majority of readers have completed an undergraduate degree at university.

The majority of readers are either filmmaking practitioners or involved in film culture.

The majority of readers watch between 1-3 films a week, own a DVD player, and attend the cinema at least weekly.

There is a genuine diversity in what genre films are of interest across the readership.

Senses of Cinema-related information

The majority of readers visit all sections of the Senses of Cinema site.

The majority of readers read between 3 and 5 articles in full from the latest issue.

The majority of readers are very happy with the journal: rating the quality of writing as high; ranking the journal as better than other film journals; and agreeing to buy the magazine in print if it were available.

A common phrase in the Comments section of the survey was “Keep up the great work”.

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