“Turning (Your) Back to Audiences? Glimpses into Shifting Cinema-going and Film Consumption Patterns in Bulgaria”


The postdoctoral project “Turning (Your) Back to Audiences? Glimpses into Shifting Cinema-Going and Film Consumption Patterns in Bulgaria” aims to investigate the habits and preferences of contemporary Bulgarian film audiences, their expectations of the new Bulgarian cinema and their ability to access audiovisual products. It features a mixed-method approach to studying film audiences, combining quantitative and qualitative research and triangulating official statistics with a large-scale survey and focus groups held across Bulgaria. The main purpose of this project is to address the lack of systematic sociological research in the country, which creates a top-down approach to film production, distribution and exhibition, and to facilitate the much-needed dialogue between film producers, distributors and exhibitors, on the one hand, and film audiences in Bulgaria, on the other.

The format adapted from research carried out for the UK Film Council and the British Film Institute, the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) funded Mediating Cultural Encounters through European Screens (MeCETES), and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) supported European Cinema Audiences project.

Research Questions

How do film memories shape contemporary interactions with film? What is the role of cinema in the lives of contemporary Bulgarian film viewers? Do local audiences enjoy home-grown entertainment? What motivates their perceptions of local cinema? Who has access to what media products and through what means? Why is “piracy” not only wide-spread but also highly acceptable?


The project secured 580 valid survey responses and 86 focus group participants. Heterogeneous groups were purposefully targeted across a vast geographical spread of settlements, but the participants were ultimately self-selected volunteers, recruited through convenience sampling.

As shown in the table below, compared to the general population in Bulgaria, the sample is slightly skewed towards: women, relatively young participants, well-educated, employed at highly qualified positions or still students, living in medium-sized, large and very large settlements, of predominantly Bulgarian ethnic origin, with high self-assessed IT skills, using a personal computer, laptop or tablet when browsing the internet, and interested in arts, learning and creativity, in terms of hobbies.


General population:

Questionnaire respondents:

Focus group participants:


Men: 48%; Women: 52%

Men: 32.7%, Women: 67.3%

Men: 21%; Women: 79%


<14: 14%; 15-24: 9%; 25-49: 35%; 50-64: 21%; 65-79: 16%: >80: 5%

16-25: 42%; 26-45: 38%; 46-65: 17%; 66+: 3%

16-25 – 37.2%; 26-45 – 16.3%; 46-65 – 30.2%; 66+ – 16.3%


Higher: 19.6%; Further: 43.4%; Primary: 13.9%; No education: 23.1%

Higher: 55.9%; Further: 28.7%; Primary: 15.4%; No education: 0%


Managerial, specialist: 7.66%; Technical, admin, service or military: 11.3%; Skilled: 6.85%; Unqualified: 3.3%; Retired: 3.11%; Student: 13.53%; Unemployed: 5.02% ; Persons not in the labour force: 49.23%

Managerial, specialist: 30%; Technical, admin, service or military: 23%; Skilled: 4%; Unqualified: 2%; Retired: 4%; Student: 34%; Unemployed: 3%

Settlement size:

Very small (+villages): 38.%; Small: 10%; Medium: 18%; Large: 4%; Very large: 30%

Very small (+villages): 5%; Small: 13%; Medium: 26%; Large: 7%; Very large: 49%

Very small – 3%; Small – 13%; Medium – 37%; Large – 29%; Very large – 17%


Bulgarian: 84%; Turkish: 9%; Roma: 5%; Russian: 0.10%; Other: 1.9%

Bulgarian: 98%; Turkish: 0.4%; Roma: 0.6%; Russian: 0.4%; Other: 0.6%

IT skills (self-assessed):

5 – 30%; 4 – 38%; 3 – 24%; 2 – 5%; 1- 2%; 0 – 1%

Internet access preference:

PC, laptop, tablet: 60%;Phone: 37%; Smart TV: 2%; No access at home: 1%


Arts, learning, creativity: 47%;Quiet pastimes: 7%; Socialising: 15%; Physical/travel: 11%; Online: 15%; Other: 5%


In terms of geography, participants from 92 different settlements took part in the survey, as illustrated by the map below:

Follow-up focus group discussions took place in 14 different locations, as can be seen below:

All opinions and responses featured in the final results have been anonymised to avoid direct and indirect identifiers. For more information on data protection, you can visit the Oxford Brookes University Information Security webpages.  


Dr Maya Nedyalkova earned her BA in Film and Philosophy and MA in Film and Cultural Management and she explored selected transnational aspects of the Bulgarian film industry during her Arts and Humanities Research Council funded PhD at the University of Southampton. As a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford Brookes University, she investigated the shifting patterns of contemporary Bulgarian film consumption, positioned within global culture and economy. Her research interests include national and transnational film industries, audience and reception studies and developments in digital film and media consumption.