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Lesson ideas

Ask students to look up copies of their town's main newspaper from the 1940s and 1950s in their local or central library, and to note how many cinemas there were in the last year of both decades before drawing a map to show where the cinemas stood. Then ask them to compare the number of cinemas screens that existed then with now and to identify as many as possible of the factors that led to the post-war decline of cinema.

* Ask students to conduct a class survey to find out, from the past 10 films they saw at the cinema, how many US as opposed to British and foreign films they have seen. After drawing a graph or bar chart to show the relative numbers of films they have seen from these countries, they should design a questionnaire to determine why they see so many more films from one country than any other. Finally, they should ask whether, and in what ways, students feel their cinema-going habits might influence their behaviour (eg the language they use, the clothes they wear).

* Get the class to make a list of examples of product placement in US films that they have seen recently and to say whether they detect a relationship between the target audience for the films and the featured products. Then ask them to conduct research on the level of consumption of these goods among students in their own and other classes and to say whether they find a relationship between students' consumption patterns and the films they watch.

* One of the core characteristics of the studio system was its regular production of formulaic genre movies. Discuss with students whether they think that today's US films are made on similar or different principles, then ask them each to draw up a list of their five favourite US films from the past year without conferring. Sort the films into their separate genres and ask the students to assess the degrees of difference in films of the same genre.

* Auteur theory suggests that certain directors have a particular "style signature" and that their films often show a preoccupation with certain ideas and issues. Ask students to watch any four films by, for example, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton or the Coen brothers, and to comment on similarities of style, narrative, theme, cinematography and character in all of the four films. Finally, ask them to discuss how much of the credit for the finished product should be given to the director as opposed to other members of the film crew.

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