This week I’ve turned my attention to the big screen, literally. Sunday night, my boyfriend took me on a date to our local cinema to watch what the U.S box office dubbed the 2014 summer smash hit ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.‘ Now, although I enjoyed the movie very much, I’m not here to give you a review or rate it out of 5 stars. No, because I’ve realised going to the cinema is about much more than just watching the projected film.
The movies have always been regarded as a go-to place for a date, with many cinemas offering special discounts for “date nights” or valentines day promos. So this week, as we set off planning our night out, it got me thinking why is the cinema such an attractive choice? To really think about it, the cinema is a place where couples or groups of friends meet to sit in a large, dark room full of strangers and watch a film. Doesn’t sound all that appealing, yet today it remains a popular destination, or does it?
Certainly on Sunday night, we both agreed that going to the cinema would be something fun to do, although we weren’t entirely sure about what we would see. To be honest, there is quite a bit of planning involved. Time definitely became the defining factor for what we would watch. We wanted to go see something after dinner, but not too late so we’d get a good night’s sleep. Together we looked up movie times at the local Hoyt’s, only a couple of streets away from my place and we were left with two choices: ‘The Inbetweeners 2’ or ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. We had both seen the trailers for each and were left undecided. After a quick online search of movie reviews, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ seemed the way to go.
Thinking deeper, the decisions we made to go see this film, were impacted by 3 constraints in social planning which was coined by Urban Planner Torsten Hagerstrand in his 1970 publication ‘How About People in Regional Science?’ In our simply planned trip to the cinema, the constraints of capability and coupling come into play. First of all, my boyfriend and I needed to confirm we were both available at the same time to go to this movie together (coupling). Then established how we could get there in time so our date plans followed through (capability). More so, we needed to sort out our movie and time preferences to a movie timetable which was created out of our control, this is where the constraint of authority comes in. Our access to the public area of the movie theatre was limited to a series of session times we needed to choose from. (Corbett, 2011)
I have to admit on Sunday, my boyfriend and I were somewhat a couple of rebels. After purchasing our tickets, along with a popcorn to share, we ensured I had concealed the picnic of “outside” food we brought with us into the movies. My overly large handbag contained a packet of Malteasers, two bottles of water, two chocolate biscuits and a punnet of strawberries.
In some ways, this act of rebellion was defying Hagerstrand’s time-space constraint of Authority. The rule at the cinema I go to clearly states do not bring in outside food and I guess if you had something obvious such as a pizza or your own packet of popcorn out in the open, they’d restate the rule and ask you to either finish it or put it away before entering the cinema.
But sneaking in food was not the only rebellious thing we did at the cinema on Sunday night. There is an unofficial cinema seating code of conduct one must follow at the movie theatre. You must be seated at least one seat away from a stranger in the theatre and if possible avoid sitting near people you don’t know all together. However, I’ve noticed a trend developing in cinemas today…assigned seating and it’s breaking the laws of cinema seating which have been in place for years.
It seems even when the cinema was empty, the usher now seats us amongst the crowd of cinema goers. I’ve had many of experiences where the seat number on my ticket has me sitting directly next to someone and as a result, we’re leaning to opposite sites of our seat to try and create as much comfort in the extremely awkward situation as possible. However, on Sunday night, despite our tickets clearly stating row I, seats 4 and 5, we waltzed right past those seats, and away from most of the people in the theatre and sat in the middle, way up the back, again defying a constraint of authority and fortunately for us, we weren’t caught dodging our assigned seats as the theatre was quite empty.
Which brings me to my last point. I mentioned earlier the cinema seems like a popular setting for social interaction, but is it really still as popular today than it used to be?
According to Screen Australia, the cinema attendance in Australia has declined but only slightly. Stating that attendance rates are either higher than or on par with the figures from the late 1908s.
Therefore perhaps going to the cinema can remain a favourite past time among people and if the figures are correct it’s not going out of fashion.
Corbett, J 2011, Torsten Hägerstrand: Time Geography, CSISS, <http://csiss.org/classics/content/29>