ARU Research Projects


The Hobbit Audience Project was a pioneering transnational, longitudinal, Q methodology study of audience responses to Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy (2012-14). The research explored the complex relationships between modes of reception of spectacular blockbusters and viewers’ cultural, linguistic, social and discursive affiliations. It asked a number of important questions arising from the increasingly transnational nature of blockbuster film production and reception, and managed to shed light on at least some of these, while also exploring a range of unexpected issues and new questions that arose during the course of the project. Now concluded, the project offers a wealth of insight into public and private prefigurations of the Hobbit trilogy, modes of reception and the roles of social and cultural location in shaping audience engagement and response, the impact of new cinematic and projection technologies and viewers’ reactions to the Hobbit hyperreality paradox, gender representations in fantasy film, and the effects of processes of blockbusterisation on cinematic desire.

Our innovative methodology:

This research sought to illuminate the underlying processes involved in the transcultural reception of spectacular blockbuster films, whilst radically extending Q methodology as an effective online research tool. While Q methodology is relatively new to most audience researchers, it offers an effective and robust means of measuring people’s subjective and multi-dimensional responses in a holistic manner that preserves the integrity of each individual response (Davis and Michelle, 2011; Michelle, Davis and Vladica, 2012). These individual responses can then be compared to identify major clusters of opinion within a larger sample. Our study used a mixed-method research design, combining multi-language Q surveys in stage two within a standard questionnaire to garner insight into aspects of viewers’ responses and social positionings. By combining Q methodology with a conventional survey capturing socioeconomic data from large numbers of individuals, we were able to glean powerful new insights into the relationship between different responses to film and relevant aspects of viewers’ subjectivities. Our research is quite possibly the largest and most complex online Q study of audiences ever conducted, with over 6,500 responses in total, and has compiled a unique data set tracing the evolution of audience responses to a spectacular blockbuster event film trilogy over time. In the interests of transparency and to encourage wider application of our data and general approach, our raw data and research materials are provided below.

Research Collaborators:

Research Contributors:

Hobbit Audience Project Data and Questionnaires:

In the interests of transparency and in the hope that other researchers may find our data and methodological approach useful for their own projects, we are making the raw data from each survey freely available here, along with copies of our questionnaires and some further explanation of our research approach. We ask that any reuse of our data or adaptation of our research materials clearly acknowledge its origins in the Hobbit Audience Project (Michelle, Davis, Hardy and Hight, 2012-2016). Excel versions of the data files also contain the questionnaire and statements we used (on a separate sheet), along with the relevant codes used in the data files. If you have questions about how to interpret the data, please contact Charles Davis ([email protected]) or Carolyn Michelle ([email protected]) directly.

Methodological Appendices:

Readers interested in learning more about our methodological rationale and analytical process may wish to read this online appendix, which supplements the discussion of our methodology in our recent book:

Published Articles/Books on the Hobbit Audience Project:

Our book on the Hobbit Audience Project is now available:
Fans, Blockbusterisation, and the Transformation of Cinematic Desire: Global Receptions of the Hobbit Film Trilogy
It can be purchased online here:

    Related Publications from the ARU: