Have a think about the last time that you went to the cinema… “Or “the movies” as us Gen Y kids like to call it. The last time I went was to see The Revenant back in 2015. I was with my boyfriend and we went on a Wednesday night at around 8.30pm – Good memory I know.
I remember this cinema experience so vividly because of two reasons: One: was because it was the first (and only) time I’ve been to the cinema with my boyfriend… and Two: was because the movie went for so long that we almost fell asleep so we ended up leaving early! How bad is that. I guess this first movie-date did set out the grounds for us having something in common, which was the fact we both don’t enjoy the experience of 3-hour-long movies.
However what was the reason we went to the cinema in the first place? Was it because we blatantly wanted to see the movie? Was it because we enjoyed the experience of being in a ‘public space’ as a couple? Was it because the popcorn tastes really good?
I decided to refresh my memory and go to the movies again, with my boyfriend, as part of this week’s task. As an ethnographic point of view, I wrote a few notes before and after the event. This is what I came up with:
- Prior to movie: We’re going as a ‘night out’, an experience different to watching the standard TV at home. Therefore, we’re ‘buying’ the experience of the place of the cinema.
- Inside the cinema: We’ve walked in and the lights are still on, there’s a lot of people watching going on. From the idea of the audience – we’re acknowledging and are now aware of who or what is around us.
- Inside the cinema: We sit next to each other, with a few spare seats on either side so we’re not nice and cosy to anyone. Again we are analysing our surroundings, we are in a public place.
- During the movie: We sit and watch, not checking phone, all our concentration is on the screen. We’ve had a few nibbles of popcorn, maybe a few spills too!
- After the movie: We leave once the movie finishes, and walk out with the crowd. Then straight home.
In terms of ethnography, and studying the people or culture of the cinema it is clear that for us, the cinema is a place to go predominantly for the experience. Public space, “Loosely defined as the opposite of private space,” (S. Turnbull, 2017) is the main reason why we go to the cinema, and this in fact challenges our ‘norm’ of watching a movie at home in a private space. It is exciting for us to go to the cinema, as we are conscious of ourselves and our surroundings as well as enjoying each other’s company.
Have you ever been to the cinema? If yes, why do you think you’ve been before? Feel free to let me know what your experience was like in the cinematic environment.
S. Turnbull, Lecture slides, week 5, UOW, 2017