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The Return of the Epic Film$
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Andrew Elliott

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748684021

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748684021.001.0001

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Popcorn and Circus

Popcorn and Circus

An Audience Expects

(p.74) Chapter 5 Popcorn and Circus
The Return of the Epic Film

Robert Stow

Edinburgh University Press

The recreation of the ancient world in film has long been a popular area of study amongst classicists, with the main focus being the genre’s alleged disregard for historical fact. The academic view is understandable, but this chapter examines the wider popular audience of the epic film; do they want, or even expect, their films to be historically accurate? Building on a series of audience studies designed to explore audience perceptions of the ancient world in film, the findings offer insight into how historical film is received by the non specialist; the public cinema-goer. Through questionnaires and focus groups based around Gladiator and Centurion, a wide range of audience expectations and beliefs about the genre are revealed which question whether historical epics should be motivated by contemporary influences in an attempt to connect with their viewers. and the extent to which a film should reveal its creative licence. Many of the respondents’ comments give valuable insight into what audiences expect from epics like Gladiator and Centurion.

Keywords:   reception, epic film, historical film, Gladiator (film), Centurion (film), authenticity, audience studies

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