• Sarah Street


Trainspotting was released in New York in July 1996, ten months after its UK première. It took $262,000 on its opening weekend and continued to attract audiences, earning $12 million at the US box office after eight weeks. By Hollywood standards this is not a large sum — in seven weeks Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996) grossed $285 million — but Trainspotting’s career abroad exceeded expectations, it ‘travelled’ well, receiving excellent reviews and high-profile publicity in Europe and the USA. As a low-budget, parochial film which certainly did not exemplify the conventional virtues and values of Britain, utilising broad Scottish accents (some dubbing was necessary for American release) and dealing with risqué subject-matter, it would, at first sight, appear to be destined for short theatrical domestic release followed by a video career. John Hill has argued that:

[T]he most interesting type of British cinema, and the one which is most worthy of support, differs from the type which is often hoped for — a British cinema capable of competing with Hollywood and exemplifying the virtues and values of Britain. A different conception of British cinema recognises that its economic ambitions will have to be more modest. However, its cultural ambitions can, and should, be correspondingly more ambitious: the provision of diverse and challenging representations adequate to the complexities of contemporary Britain. (Hill, 18–19)


National Identity Heroin Addict Production Team Sleeve Shot Visual Style 
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  1. Gunning, Tom 1986: ‘The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, its Spectators and the Avant-Garde’. In Wide Angle, 8, 3–4.Google Scholar
  2. Hill, John 1992: ‘The Issue of National Cinema and British Film Production’. In Duncan Petrie (ed.), New Questions of British Cinema. London: British Film Institute.Google Scholar
  3. MacDonald, Andrew 1996: ‘It’s Such a Perfect Day’. In Premiere UK, March.Google Scholar
  4. Neale, Steve 1990: ‘Questions of Genre’. In Screen, 31, 1.Google Scholar
  5. Self, Will 1996: ‘Trainspotting’. In Observer Preview, 11–17 February.Google Scholar
  6. Shone, Tom 1996: ‘Trainspotting’. In Sunday Times, 25 February.Google Scholar
  7. Street, Sarah 1997: British National Cinema. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Suggestions for Further Reading

  1. Caughie, John 1990: ‘Representing Scotland: New Questions for Scottish Cinema’. In E. Dick (ed.), From Limelight to Satellite. London: British Film Institute/Scottish Film Council.Google Scholar
  2. Petrie, Duncan 1996: ‘British Cinema: The Search for Identity’. In Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (ed.), Oxford History of World Cinema. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sarah Street 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Street

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