Cinemas are a place of collective entertainment where groups of strangers gather at one location for the same purpose. However, in order to get to this destination lots of organisation needs to go into organising a cinema experience.
I haven’t ever seen a movie on my own, I have always planned to watch a film with at least one other person. If I don’t find someone to go to the movies with, I just wait for it to play on Foxtel.
Why is it that most of us feel the need to be accompanied at the cinema, while we are perfectly fine watching movies at home by ourselves.
Is it because going to the movies has become a cultural group experience where going by yourself is seen as abnormal? Or is it because we don’t feel comfortable sitting in a cinema by ourselves with a room filled with strangers? Thus, the idea of being watched while watching.
But going to the movies is a lot harder than simply watching the movie, it involves three constraints that need to be accounted for. Hagerstrands developed the idea of a space-time path where the constraints of capability, coupling and authority are factors that impact one’s effort to go to the movies.
So I tested out this theory and realised that we sub-consciously tick off each of these constraints as we prepare to go to the movies.
I asked a friend to come and watch a recently released movie with me and once they said yes we had to organise how we were getting to the cinema. We decided that they would come to my house–seeing as I am always late! Meeting at my house would eliminate my travel time and give me more time to get ready, because who doesn’t need more time to get ready right!
Once this was decided, we needed to pick a local cinema and a date/time that would fit in both of our schedules. Then we needed to pick a meeting time that was about 20 minutes before the movie starts.
However, if the showing times clashed with our schedule or if the cinema was over 20kms away and in traffic, we would decide to stay in and watch a movie in my own cinema room. This is interesting because it “reveals how moviegoers design the outing to accommodate the group. The ﬁlm becomes secondary in importance with convenience for group members, proximity of theatres, and ease of access taking precedence (Shrinivas, 2002, P.160).” This means that the organisation of a trip to the movies and kneading out the constraints becomes first priority before the film itself.
Then we needed to determine who would drive to the cinema. This means taking into consideration of how much petrol there is in a tank, if the person is legally allowed to drive and which route we would take in order to get there on time. This means skipping Narellan Road because you will most likely be stuck in traffic for 40 minutes.
With the constraints of coupling and capability sorted out, we move onto authority where I question if I am able to actually watch the movie. At the age of 20, we can watch any movie, so age isn’t a restriction for us. However, the only restriction that sits in our path is food. Being a young woman of Spanish heritage, it has been our custom to sneak food into the cinema–because we’re stereotyped as cheap, but really who wants to spend $30 on cinema food when I can get it for half that price! So before heading into the cinema to buy the ticket, we go to McDonalds to buy food. I always bring my big handbag to the cinema and put everything in there, and I mean everything! I have become quite skilled in organising my bag so that I can keep both drinks in there without being spilt! I guess it’s just a Spanish trick of the trade!
Then we waltz into the cinema, take our seats and as the lights begin to go down, we unpack my bag of goodies and enjoy the experience of being at the movies.
After seeing the movie, I realised that we don’t consciously make all of these decisions, we do them out of habit, we do them because that what we’ve been taught to do, and we don’t think twice. We learn from our parents, our friends and even the strangers that sit within the same theatre who also had to overcome constraints to be able to see the film.
Corbett, J 2001, ‘Torsten Hagerstrand, Time Geography,’ University of California
Srinivas, L 2002, ‘The active audience: spectatorship, social relations and the experience of cinema in India’, Brandeis University, USA, pp.158-161 <http://academic.csuohio.edu/kneuendorf/c49412/Readings/Srinivas02.pdf>