Early Screen Culture in Colonial Hong Kong (1897–1907)

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Early screen culture in Hong Kong remains underexplored, despite the rigorous work of film historians. According to new evidence on film exhibitions in Hong Kong from 1897 to late 1907, early screen practice was multi-faceted. It ranged from technological marvels and the co-programming of motion pictures with musicals and magic shows to the enjoyment of theatre spaces, in addition to the on-screen excitement projected to the audience. Given the heterogeneity of early film screening in the Crown Colony, I present three accounts of early screen culture in colonial Hong Kong: the primacy of technical marvels and the management of cinema machines; the symbiosis between motion pictures and established forms of entertainment; and the emergence of film exhibition as a commercial institution. To understand the implications of cinema in connection to colonial governance, I use the concept of dispositif, a machine of display and a device of power relations, to analyse the role of cinema in the deployment of colonial power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-169
Number of pages22
JournalTransnational Screens
Issue number3
Early online date5 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

This research is supported by the GRF project ‘Screen Practices in Colonial Hong Kong: A History of Film Exhibition and Reception from 1897 to 1925ʹ (Project # LU 12613217), funded by the Research Grants Committee, HKSAR.


  • Early Hong Kong screen culture
  • Technology
  • film projection
  • dispositif
  • colonialism


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