The Importance Of The Social Experience At Movies

from the it's-a-big-deal dept

For years, as the MPAA complained about the so-called “threat” of the internet, we’ve tried to point out that the movie business shouldn’t have much to worry about, if they stopped thinking that movies were all about the content. The truth is that movies have always been about the social experience of “going out” to the movies and having a good time. Just as people still go out to eat at restaurants even though they can eat for much less at home, people will always go out to the movies if the experience is enjoyable. Unfortunately, the studios and the theater owners (for the most part) still don’t get this and seem to have gone out of their way to make the experience considerably worse over time. A new study, though, is highlighting the importance of the social experience in determining how a movie is received. Pointed out by Slashdot, the study found that the presence of other people around enhances the movie-watching experience. It turns out that, with people around, the overall experience is shared and spread across the crowd, leading to greater enjoyment. Hopefully, it’s research like this that will lead the studios and theater owners to stop worrying about things like piracy or even simultaneous DVD releases and realize that if they build a better experience people will always want to go out to the movies.

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Comments on “The Importance Of The Social Experience At Movies”

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Grady says:

I know of a few movie theaters who have grasped this concept. But not for reasons you may think.

Most movie theaters don’t make squat off of box office sells, which is why concession prices are so high. They realize without customers, they won’t make money. Most places (I know of) strive to make the movie going experience enjoyable, even your visit to the concession stand, just so you keep coming back.

Here are a couple post as to “Why Movie Theaters Don’t Care About You”

Anarchy_Creator (user link) says:

Fuck Movie Theaters

They do not give a shit about you.
Their ticket prices, are two high, their concession stand prices are outrageous, their “Arcade” prices are laughable, and the overall movie going experience at the last 4 theaters I have gone to have blown almost as many dead goats as the movies I have subjected myself to inside of them.
Everyone whines “Ticket prices are high because Piracy is rampant.” I say Piracy is rampant because:
1. Most of the movies Hollywood produces are crap, and only idiots would pay to see them (myself sadly included)
2. Ticket prices are most likely fixed, and highly overpriced
3. Snacks, and drinks are horrendously overpriced
4. The bootleg arcades, and game machines they have to occupy your time while waiting for food/drinks/the movie to start suck more then Chuck E. Cheese, and cost more to play
5. There are at least 10-15 minutes of ads for crap on TV no less before each movie let alone the 5-10 minute ads about other crappy movies that are supposed to come out next year or late sometime the year after that (when you’ve already forgotten about them you will see yet another ad on TV reminding you about it)
6. There is always someone with a kid that will not STFU, and the parents seem too stupid or stubborn to take them out of the theater so they tell them to be quiet which never works
7. There is almost always some stupid motherfucker in the row behind, or in front of you who wont STFU about either seeing this movie before listing off what’s about to happen, or why it happened, or what they wish would happen
8. Just about every 10-15 minutes an usher walks up and down the sides of the theater with his lame ass flashlight/cone doing god knows what other then annoying me while I’m trying to watch the crappy movie (not kicking out annoying people)
9. Never fail at least once or twice a movie the frame will be washed out, a little off screen, or they will change reels a few seconds too soon, and cut off a conversation, or someone will magically teleport from one room to the next while walking towards someone/something
10. there’s only 1 fucking bathroom that is always as far away from the movie theater you are currently in so when you finally can’t hold it in any longer after drinking you $9.75 16oz watered down medium coke, and have to excuse yourself you miss a good portion of the movie.

I could go on, but why bother?

John Winston says:

Re: Fuck Movie Theaters

If you cannot hold your pee after drinking a “$9.75 16oz watered down medium coke” you purchased only an hour earlier, you might want to seek some medical help.

You also sound like someone who complains a lot and doesn’t really do anything to help create a solution – or if that, even wants a solution – you sound like you enjoy complaining.

I am sorry that your personal movie-going experiences have been gawd-awful – but I am glad that I had never been in the same theater as you, as you might be “the one” complaining on and on all through the entire movie.

James says:

Re: Re: Re: Fuck Movie Theaters

Sadly this guy is right, many movie theatres have gotten as horrible to visit as FM is to listen to.

However, I also agree w/the “IMAX” poster. My experience in IMAX theatres has been a step up from regular theatres, even when it costs $3 more per ticket. The extra cost seems to keep the chatty riff-raff out and provides for a higher quality presentation.

David Whitten says:

Re: Fuck Movie Theaters

Oh, you really sound like an anarchist. I do agree with you on the current lack of quality from Hollywood; however, the experience of seeing a “good movie” inside a 70 mm theater is a great experience. Too often, sound & special effects attempt to mask the poorly-written and poorly-acted movies from Butt Town and the surrounding area. I am fortunate enough to have a movie theater in my living area which: a) shows classic movies on an original square-shaped screen; b) uses the original projectors with metal surrounding the device to insure that fires remain in check; c) boasts of Bonnie and Clyde being occasional customers; & d) charges $2.00 per classic movie. I hated Casablanca until I watched it on this old-styled screen. So, I don’t know where in the fuck you reside, but I feel sorry for you with you cracker box movie houses. In Texas, some things are beyond time and space. We did not all vote for that fucking George W. Bush.

TX CHL Instructor (profile) says:

The social experience...

The social experience that I have had in my last (not recent) trip to a theater included:

1) Sticky floors
2) Cellphone users
3) People chatting
4) Sound system with way too much bass
5) Long lines at the overpriced concessions
6) Sitting through 10 minutes of commercials

None of which I have to endure at home with my DVR or my VHS (yes, it still works, and I can still rent them). I prefer VHS over DVD because nobody has figured out how to prevent me from skipping the commercials (and hence, they tend to be fewer and shorter).

If I miss something in the action or dialog, I can go back and look/listen again.

And at home, I can have the social experience of sitting with my wife’s feet in my lap, rubbing on them :). Or I can pause the movie while I enjoy an even more intense social experience…

Legal Requirements for TX CHL

Kraw says:

Home Theater

this is why I’m building a home theater in my basement

but I admit, no matter how much equipment I have, no matter how nice my media room is.. nothing beats the “experience” of going to the theater.

I also have to say, I never go on weekends, after 7, or for openings. I always going during the week and catch a matinée. Much cheaper and less kids

Overcast says:

Give me a break, whine, cry, grovel… that’s all the entertainment industry does.

The social experience that I have had in my last (not recent) trip to a theater included:

1) Sticky floors
2) Cellphone users
3) People chatting
4) Sound system with way too much bass
5) Long lines at the overpriced concessions
6) Sitting through 10 minutes of commercials

Yeah, couldn’t agree more… 5 bucks for a coke? 5 bucks for a small popcorn? Heck, 80% of the last customer’s is still on the floor anyway.

I wouldn’t mind the concession costs so much – if the place was clean.

And yeah, the other people are annoying. Not to mention, I’m an evil smoker and mostly – just don’t feel like sitting in one place that long without a smoke.

I’m like 50 times more comfortable at home. It’s cleaner, the snacks are cheaper.

So MPAA *BUZZZ* Wrong!!!

If *anything* is doing away with interest in Theaters, it’s not ‘bootleg’ crap on the web – LOL, give me a break…

It’s HIGH quality TV’s, Audio Systems, and the like in Homes. Big screen TV’s with more clarity than the silver screen, audio systems that aren’t annoying.

The MPAA screams about this – and pushes Blue-Ray, etc – what do you think higher quality movies at home will do to Cinema? Take a guess….

Let’s get a big HD TV, a new HD DVD player, and a Bose surround sound system. Hmm, so the experience is better at the Cinema in which way again?

Just my two cents says:

No, it's because the big screen effect

For me, it’s not because other people are around. I can get that with my kids and wife around my tv at home. The reason I go to the movies is for experiencing the grand screen and sound and especially digitial 3d when that is an option. You don’t get the same kind of experience watching on a tv set at home as you do from a big screen at the movies. I’ve always enjoyed a movie much more by seeing it on a big screen rather than at home. I’ve even tested myself on this. Movies I’ve seen on the big movie screen gave me much more enjoyment than the same movie watching it on tv. I don’t even care to see a “good” movie on tv as that will ruin it for me 🙂

Just my two cents says:

Re: No, it's because the big screen effect

Also, may I add that I do hate, most of all, the little kid or the tall person sitting in back kicking my chair. That’s the biggest turnoff to me that I feel like turning around and shouting at them. Although, I’m not that way and I tend to just bare with it and hope it stops. Some day I may crack though and turn around and curse at them and hope they want to say something back (if adult) as I will just grab them and throw them over me to the bottom of the isle (Hopefully nobody sitting where they land 🙂 I hate being “forced” to move to another seat. Some people just don’t get it and/or they grew up in the bayou.

Spidersprog says:

Sub-Par cinemas

The closest cinema to me is an Odeon. I try to avoid it as only the main screen (screen 1) also the biggest has digital sound. When I can I go to the art house cinema (piturehousse@FACT) which has far better sound and picture. However I do get stuck sometimes as the larger cinema has a greater variety.

When I get stuck with Odeon I find myself frustrated with being stuck in one of the shoddy smaller screens with poor sound and a (relatively) tiny screen.

I think cinemas should have a sliding scale, based on the screens facilities.

I always check screens facilities before booking (for any cinema) and decided whether its worth paying for or wait to watch at home, where I have a good quality HD screen and digital (although comparatively not as powerful) sound.

So in my opinion if cinemas are worried about revenue they should offer better value to customers because all to often the value of watching at home outweighs a night out to the movies.

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Social Experience

Unfortunately the social experience I’ve had lately isn’t positive in the least. Far from making the movie more enjoyable, the people around me seem to go out of their way to make it worse. Here are just a few examples from my last trip to the theater (“The Mist” in downtown Washington, DC):

(1) An usher who absolutely would not stop walking up and down the aisles back and forth, over and over, with a flashlight on in his hand right in my eyeline to the screen for the first 40 minutes of the film. I finally asked him if he could cut it the hell out and he told me that it was his job and he had no choice.

(2) Three teenagers behind me and to my right who took no less than three cell phone calls a piece throughout the course of the film, all of whose phones were set to ring with some fantastically obnoxious pop tune at full volume. And when I say “took the calls”, that’s exactly what they did: answered the phone and proceeded to have a conversation in full voice, not even whispering. One of the inispid little bitches even started giving a play-by-play of the movie to whomever she was talking to on the other end. When one of the other patrons turned around and asked them to shut up, the response was a loud and hearty, “Fuck off!” (And of course the usher walking around with his flashlight did absolutely nothing about it.)

(3) The sea of patrons in the theater in front of me, while not talking on their phones, kept checking their e-mail or whatever the hell else at a frequency of about one every 30 seconds or so. This resulted in the lighted cell phone screens creating a kind of winking, dancing, firelfly-like effect right in the sightline to the movie screen.

(4) And finally, there was the guy who weighed 400 pounds if he weighed an ounce who trundled into the theater loaded down with every kind of snack and drink known to mankind. Even though he literally took up two seats (no exaggeration), he was fairly quiet and innocuous until his food supply ran out, at which point he started wheezing loudly, like a bellows opening and closing. I thought he was in some kind of cardiac arrest at first but gradually came to realize that it was just his normal breathing.

This movie was the first movie I’ve seen in the theater in many, many months and the only reason I went this time instead of waiting for the DVD is because I’ve been looking forward to a movie version of “The Mist” since I first read the Stephen King story 20 years ago as a kid. But if this is the kind of “social experience” one gets from going to the movies these days, you can keep it. I’ll just watch them at home on my giant plasma screen and Dolby surround and invite my girlfriend or a couple of guys from work over and socialize that way. It’s cheaper and it’s a helluva lot more enjoyable.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t want a fucking “social experience”. I’m staring at a screen; not hosting a dinner. The experience I want? Sitting in front of my awesome home theater and having a better audio/video experience than I’d get in most theaters, but without the inconvenience or expense of a theater or dealing with idiots and their cell phones, bringing their loud four year old kids to R-rated movies, people shouting at the screen, sticky floors, expensive popcorn or crappy seats.

The last time I saw a film on a theater was in 1998.

Max Powers (user link) says:

Getting too old

If you are complaining about going to the movies, you are probably getting too old to put up with everyone. I don’t know what theatre you go to but my local AMC is awesome.

Clean, strict policy against cell phones and crying babies, you can bring in any food without hiding it (AMC Policy), comfortable seats and yes, too many commercials.

No home theatre will replace the experience of going to the movies. Don’t forget, most younger people like to get out.

Jeff B says:

MPAA & movies

IN concept you are right, there is a social importance to enjoying movies with others. However, the theaters & the MPAA have managed to make the whole experience a grossly overpriced marketing scam, which turns off many viewers. I very seldom go to the theater anymore becuase there are almost no movies worth a $10 ticket, IMHO. My home theater sounds MUCH better than any theater I have been to, the video is less grainy, and no one tries to sell me overpriced junkfood every ten minutes.

Glo says:

what about introverts?

Data suggests that Extroverts[1] comprise 75% of the population, regardless of culture. So, it is not surprising that the “group experience” influences individual experience. The surveyors and statisticians overlook the Introverts of the world.

For you demographers: 62yo; female; ISTJ; retired; techie; musician.

My own preference is to go to the movie house at “odd ball” hours, such as the early afternoon show on a weekday. While school is in session, the number of kids is significantly reduced. There are also fewer patrons in general at these times.

So, no. I do not relish the communal experience of going to the movies. I tolerate it and do my best to minimize it when there is something worth seeing “first run”. Truthfully, I much rather see a movie at home on DVD.


[1] The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) model of personality. Extroverts thrive on “people contact”. By comparison, Introverts are “inward looking” and find contact with unknown individuals unsettling. See:

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Popcorn And Butter

One single issue: Quality Popcorn

Is it just me that thinks decent popcorn is an essential part of the classic cinema experience? Because I have tried, then given up on any of the 15 theaters near me because they have all replaced real Butter with some kind of “edible oil product”.

Then they have the nerve to ask “Would you like butter on that?” Yes, yes I would. But of course you guys have decided to shave $0.05 per bag of popcorn (priced at $7) so that you can push some @#$# tasting grease on my popcorn instead of yummy butter.

It’s funny. I’m just one consumer, but I would pay the $80 to take my family to the theater, but because of “Butter Flavoring” we use the home theater instead.

The Sheepleherder says:

Most of the comments here seem to focus on complaining more than anything else.

Well, think about the kind of plastic, disposable, superficial society we live in to begin with.

You are the sum of all you do.

Do you like your job? Does your job amount to nothing more than making money for yourself and other people? Is there any value in what you do with your pathetic lives at all?

Don’t forget one thing:

Most of you are just members of the ever growing herd of sheeple roaming the plant.

Have a wonderful day!

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