I do not like going to the cinema anymore. I like watching movies on a massive screen, and the atmosphere is still a positive thing for me, but the people ruin the entire experience.
For example, a few friends and I went to the movies to see “The Visit” when it came out. “The Visit” is a horror film, and one of my friends had been really looking forward to watching it since he found out it was directed by the notorious M. Night Shyamalan. But the movie was ruined by the people in the theatre.
We were sitting two rows in front of a group of teenage girls who had probably been drinking something other than frozen cokes. Throughout the entire movie, they were loud, kicking the seats, talking through the scary parts, texting, and being generally obnoxious. Our group, along with a few other disgruntled cinema-goers did the “be quiet look-back and stare” move, as well as actually asking them to keep it down or leave the theatre, but they just laughed at us.
Since then, I haven’t enjoyed going to the movies. There is always someone who is loud, or talks through the film, or has crying children. For me, going to the movies is only fulfilling if it allows me to be completely emerged in the experience and any outside distractions take my enjoyment away from me.
The fact that I do not like the theatre but I’m still enjoying the movies is an important distinction to make. Roger Ebert believes that people “love the movies as much as ever. It’s the theaters that are losing their charm,” (Ebert 2011), and I am inclined to agree with him. The reasons that the viability of cinema theatres is changing in today’s world can be linked back to Torsten Hagerstrand’s theory of the spatial and temporal constraints of human activity.
Hagerstrand found that how humans interact with spaces has limitations, and he identified three constraints with these spaces.
Capability: the limitations on human movement due to physical or biological factors.
Coupling: the need to be in one place at and for a certain time, often interacting with people.
Authority: limitations on access and control by the owners of the space.
Looking at “The Ruined Visit” cinema experience through these three constraints gives an insight into why the cinema theatre may be becoming a less viable institution in modern times.
Late afternoon and evening sessions are often the busiest movie sessions to go to. With horror movies in general, night-time sessions tend to be the most popular times because of the audiences age and because it also adds to the horror experience. As well as this, movies tend to be more popular and the theatres more populated in the first few sessions of a movie. These are all examples of the capability constraints of the public movie theatre. The movie I went too had just been released and we went to the 7:30pm session, so the theatre was packed.
The sheer amount of people in the theatre meant that there were very little empty seats. If the theatre hadn’t been so full, then we could have moved away from the obnoxious teenagers, but we didn’t have that option. That is the risk you run when attending a movie – it may be busy and full of people, and you can not control the actions of those around you. This is an example of the coupling constraint. Interestingly, the cinema has “rules” where even though you are in a room with people, you do not really interact with them.
These rules are put into place by the cinema authorities, but also dictated through social conventions. Most of the rules in place in theatres aim to maximise the cinema experience for everyone in attendance, such as no talking and no mobile phones. The authorities also dictate the prices of the movie tickets and candy bar foods, and these limitations are an example of the authority constraint. In the case of “The Ruined Visit”, no cinema employees came and removed the teenage girls from the theatre, even though someone went and complained.
The affordability of large home televisions, the ability to pirate movies almost as soon as they are released and the appeal of watching a film without having to adhere to any of the above space constraints are making cinemas less appealing. Unless it is a must-see new release where avoiding spoilers would be impossible, I would much prefer to watch the movie at home, where I could talk if I wanted, not be annoyed by other people, buy food that doesn’t cost a fortune and text if I want to text. I get the impression that many other people feel the same way in 2016.
Ebert, R 2011, ‘I’ll tell you why movie revenue is dropping…’, Roger Ebert’s Journal, <http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/ill-tell-you-why-movie-revenue-is-dropping> Accessed 28 August 2016.
Corbett, J 2001, ‘Torsten Hӓgerstrand, Time Geography’, CSISS Classics, Center for Spacially Integrated Social Science, <http://escholarship.org/uc/item/2t75b8sj> accessed 28 August 2016.