Survey Results: The Age of Silent Movie Fans and Whether the Fandom is Shrinking

You may recall that I posted a little survey a couple weeks back to find out the average age of silent movie fans and whether the fanbase is growing, shrinking or staying the same. Wow! So many participants!

Over 600 of you responded, which is a pretty impressive number for such a niche interest. Heck, it’s almost as big as the respondent pool for some political polls! Let’s crunch some numbers!

Before beginning, I should mention that an internet survey is obviously not scientific. However, this information should provide an interesting snapshot of the global silent movie fandom.

The largest age group by far is 50s with 28% of total respondents, followed by the 40s with 20%. However, 33% of all responses chose 30s, 20s or teen/tween, so a third of the people taking the survey can be classified as whippersnappers.

A healthy 15% of respondents are in their 60s and then there is a large dropoff with only 3% in their 70s and 2 (not percent, just 2 people) in their 80s. No one responding saw silent films during their original release.

So, based on these answers, I would say that there is a healthy range of ages.

Now, how long have you been a silent movie fan?

Unsurprisingly, the 21-40 year range wins with 27%. This date range coincides with the rise of home video, a true boon to silent films. A whopping 21% of you have been fans for 41-60 years and 19% of you have been fans for 11-20 years (I’m in this range myself). And a total of 31% of respondents have become fans during the last decade, I’m sure with the assistance of YouTube and other video streaming services.

Hats off to the 2% who have been fans for over sixty years. Wow! Any fandom needs a combination of newcomers and established experts to survive and it looks like silent films are in a healthy place.

And now for the opinions. Is the silent movie fandom growing or shrinking?

This question is 100% based on personal opinion and experience. 35% of you weren’t sure if the fandom was growing, shrinking or staying the same. This is not surprising as a large number of silent fans are obliged to watch them solo on home video.

33% of you feel the fandom is growing and 19% of you feel that it is staying about the same. 13% of you believe that it is shrinking.

Thank you so much for responding and sharing the poll! I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments and studying the results.


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16 Replies to “Survey Results: The Age of Silent Movie Fans and Whether the Fandom is Shrinking”

  1. When I moved to Boston 15-ish years ago, I don’t think there were any regular silent screenings other than the art-house theaters occasionally playing something in rep. Today, three local theaters have monthly programs, two bar/restraurant/performance spaces have a monthly show, and that’s mostly places that weren’t doing it before. The manager of the Somerville Theatre occasionally wishes he got bigger crowds for them, but I think this becoming a regular thing in several places indicates that interest is either up or it had been seriously under-tapped before

    1. Yes, there’s something so charming about a live silent screening and most of the big comedy stars still have name recognition. People may not remember Enid Bennett or Carlyle Blackwell but Chaplin remains ubiquitous.

  2. Thanks for the results, I’m glad so many people participated. It would be interesting to see how the results would stack up against, say “classic” Hollywood-fandom defined as 1933-1955 of some other broad category of older film. It’s hard to come up with equivalencies, though, because most fans are defined by “genre” and silent film includes many genres.

    1. I definitely think that while there is overlap, silent fans are enormously outnumbered by Golden Age and pre-Code fans. It stands to reason as these films more closely resemble modern motion pictures while many experience a learning curve with silents. A good number of classic fans avoid silents or have only seen a few. (Ironically, the more I watch silents, the more insufferable I find many talkies.) I suppose that as silent movie fans, our closest cousins would be fans of radio dramas and serials.

  3. This was very intriguing! I think the internet has definitely brought the silent fandom together in a unique way and kept the fandom up. It’s also nice to know there are others my age (I’m 19) that like silent movies! Good stuff!

    1. Yes, I believe the youngest reader I have corresponded with was 13 (the youngest who chose to share their age anyway), so there are definitely youthful fans. I started watching silent movies as a teen as well.

  4. I think silent movies are an aquired taste I love them ( not all of them I’ve seen)toll of the/sea stands out as one of my favs

  5. I’m not surprised that there are so many silent film buffs in their 50s (the age group I fall into). We’ve had TCM around so long that I think people forget that there was home video before that. Gen Xers like me were able to see silents on VHS back in the Eighties and Nineties. In fact, I probably saw more classic films (silent and talkies both) for the first time through 9th Street Video than TCM! It’s how I first saw The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Pandora’s Box, The Crowd, and a bunch of other silent fiilms!

    1. Yes, I think it’s no coincidence that the popularity of silents jumped with the VHS boom and the rise of classic movie cable stations. I also dare say that the 1980 release of the Hollywood miniseries shaped tastes as well.

  6. Hi Fritzi. I’d say the audience is growing. When I started 40+ years ago, I didn’t know many other fans. Now at least it is easier to communicate with other fans.

  7. I’m late for the survey, but I think I first saw a silent movie when I was 12-13, I saw the “Gold Rush” and “The Sheik” on Youtube and they got me super interested in Silent Films. I’m 16 now and still like them very much. I only started watching them regularly like 2 months ago though.

  8. With new streaming services and youtube, many silents have become more widely available in my country, so my hope is that the fandom here will grow. I used to be so jealous of Americans with TCM, and the French with the Arte-channel. Youtube has changed a great deal, but it’s not a format that does silents justice at all. I’ll have to organize my own film festival one of these days

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