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.

Filed Under: movies, social experience


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  1. identicon
    BTR1701, 11 Dec 2007 @ 7:48am

    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.

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