My mother still talks about the time, a good fifteen years back, I visited the local cinema with my Nanna.
“Did Grandpa go too?” Mum asked me.
“No, someone might eat chips”, I informed her gravely, in all my five-year-old seriousness.
What I was referring to, through my mother’s wanton hysterics, was no doubt the product of my Grandfather’s strict upbringing. A ‘no-talking-when-the-TV’s-on’ kind of mentality has undoubtedly left him with a rare kind of PTSD by which the very idea of a chip packet crinkling is enough to deter him from the big screen.
Dependent upon context, people have very different reasons to visit (or not visit) a cinema and enjoy it in various ways, through varying elements. With reference to Hagerstrand‘s time-space constraints on mobility, in this blog post I will share with you a memory of what I deem to be a successful cinema visit.
It was November 2015 and I was wandering through the aisles of Coles with my best friend, Leah. We were stocking up on snacks to sneak into the theatre to see the film Mockingjay Part 2 because, let’s face it, no one wants to mortgage their home to afford a bag of f#cking chips. We bought two small(ish) tubs of icecream, a packet of 30 plastic spoons (because they only come in bulk :/)
and a package of biscuits we never actually ate. Once we had left the supermarket, exploded the bag of spoons, spent a few minutes grabbing them all out of the dirt like hobos and being stared at by uppity locals, we faced the age-old dilemma. How on earth were we going to sneak all this food into the cinema?
Leah’s good at this stuff. She came prepared. She was wearing this loose-fitting T-shirt with really wide sleeves, and managed to stuff an icecream tub in one sleeve and biscuits in the other. With her help, we fit the rest in one of my coat sleeves. It looked way too obvious, so we had to sort of stuff my arm inside my coat as though I had broken it.
We waddled our way down the main street of Bowral in fits of laughter as we approached the township’s only cinema.
Bowral empire cinema, in all it’s backward and bogan glory, virtually has not changed since its opening night in the year 1915 (source), but neither has the town – that’s relativity for you. Being uncharacteristically organised, Leah and I had purchased our tickets beforehand. For some reason we assumed we were running late for the movie, without either of us checking the time on our phones.
We reached the door to cinema 3 and heard the audio. Were we even later than we thought? When we walked in and found our seats (there wasn’t anyone at the door to check our tickets), we talked and chatted for a while whilst the advertisements played. Nobody else was in the cinema. We started hoeing into our icecream. Basically we were having the time of our lives until Leah noticed one particular trailer had been running for a while – Lo and behold, we weren’t late, we were early. So early, in fact, we enjoyed the last half hour of the film being played before the one we had paid to see. Go figure.
We thought it was hilarious until the lights came on and we realised someone would be coming in to clean before they opened the doors to Mockingjay Part 2! Our icecreams were open; there was no putting them back in our sleeves. We hid them behind the red curtains which decorate the wall beside the stairs and snuck out into the foyer. Ever so politely, Leah approached the concierge desk and asked if she and I were allowed to enter the cinema to view Mockingjay. The concierge, pleased with our innocent smiles and oh-so-smooth talking, told us we were welcome to enter the theatre. We thanked her profusely and ran back inside. In fits of laughter, we found our icecream and went back to our seats. Nobody else came in; we had the entire theatre to ourselves. It took us about forty minutes to realise the film was absolutely terrible. We spent the remainder surfing our Facebook feeds.
The point I’m making here is that even though the film was probably the worst I’d seen in a while (and quite honestly a disgrace to the whole Hunger Games franchise), my cinema experience was wonderful. This is a phenomenon which has begun to be studied only recently. Research in this area focuses on ‘extrafilmic practices’; which Susan Maloney surmises as ‘all the other stuff that happens in the cinema’.
Let me put it this way; if you watch a film on Netflix in your bed at midnight, will you experience that film in the same way as you would if you viewed it at a cinema? No. The seating, the size of the screen, the location, the audience members; each of these things add to the aesthetics of film experience. When we go to see a film at the cinema, we don’t only experience what is shown on the screen.
The logistics of cinema attendance depend upon three constraints of mobility;
- Capability: can a person get to the cinema at the right time?
- Coupling: is there a means to get to the cinema?
- Accountability: is a person allowed to be in the cinema? (i.e. are there any age constraints on a particular film?)