When I was 7 years old I went to the movies and boy, did I feel like a grown up. The first movie I ever recall seeing was at an 8pm time slot, way past my bedtime on a school night, and was a lucky girls night out with my Mum. I felt like the luckiest girl and skipped through the car park of Belconnen Mall in Canberra in such excitement.
Little 7 year old me went hand in hand with my mum to see The Lizzie McGuire Movie, which at that point in time was the biggest thing to happen in my entire life. The cinema was crowded with young girls and their mums, sitting and chatting eagerly waiting for the movie to begin. It was a love story beyond our wildest imaginations and the start of a new obsession with romantic comedies and the cinema.
From Lizzie McGuire when I was 7, to Bad Moms just last week. I have seen my fair share of movies both in the comfort of my own home and as well as the cinema. The public space I watch movies in has taken a dramatic change from when I was young allowing new experiences in new media spaces.
The idea that space can host multiple meanings for different users at the same time, introduced by French philosopher Michel Foucault (1971), known as heterotopia can be exampled in cinema experience. There is something charming about watching a movie with random strangers, some that you have probably never encountered before and are now sharing an experience together that might never happen again. I think that it is individuals in different times of our lives with different experiences coming together and having the capacity to share emotions that make movie cinemas so enticing. Also popcorn, popcorn makes movies really great!
But in today’s society, people often choose not to participate in activities like going to the movie cinema. With the rise of online streaming services replacing cinema experience it is important to research and determine why this is happening and what the effects are. Torsten Hagerstand was a studier of human migration, however, we can apply his practice to media space research. Hagerstead emphasised the importance of time in Human activity stating “Time has a critical importance when it comes to fitting people and things together for functioning in socio-economic systems,” (Corbett, 2015).
To have the time to participate in a social setting such as the cinema you must have capability, coupling and authority (Hagerstand). Capability refers to the limitation on movement due to physical or biological factors. This is exampled by the fact that we can not be in two places at one time, so we need to have motional capability to ensure we do not overplan and commit to too many events and if we do have things going on we need the capability to travel between places and not be late.
Hagerstands coupling constraing refers to being in a place for a period of time interacting with people. Our time-space must match up with all those surrounding us in an environment like the cinemas. The cinema should be a place where viewers collectively watch the screen rather than intiating their own conversations with little regard to those around them.
The final constraint is known as authority. Authority within the cinema comes from the owners and employees that set rules and limitations to guests to ensure the experience run smoothly. To actively participate in the cinema experience it is important to put away your phone in order to not disturb yourself and other patrons.
It is interesting to compare how things have changed since my first recalled cinema experience at 8 years old. During this time I was very much reliant on others to get me places so I could not guarantee my capability, due to my young age I was also very naiive to the cinema experience and chatted away in my mothers ears constantly recalling “did you see that?” as if she wasn’t watching the same screen as i was. Also as a child I had a lack of understanding of authority, I of course knew that movies and experiences had to be paid for but had little understanding of the rules of no feets on the chairs and the rule of silence.
In comparison to todays cinema experience I obviously now know more about the way that Hagerstands constraints are applied to experiences like the cinema but lose their context within a mostly digital world of online streaming. It is sad to see the change that is possibly causing the downfall of the cinematic experience. The only saviour is that individuals will continue to invest in such a marvellous industry and not let it fall away to the digital age.
Cinema, It’s just not the same as it used to be.
Foucault, Michel (1971). The Order of Things
John Corbett (2001). Torsten Hägerstrand: Time Geography. CSISS Classics.