There’s nothing quite like it. The dimming of the house lights, the quiet coughing of the the straggling few, the gentle shift of bums in seats. Going to the cinema is perhaps one of the most nostalgic experiences for people everywhere; an activity enjoyed from our childhoods and throughout our lives, we all have our own specific ways of enjoying the movies. Cinema trips become almost ritualistic and for some, without sticking to the same set of familiar patterns, the visit is not the same thing.
Why is it, then, that we have started to forgo cinema visits in favour of home viewing? Whilst watch at home services such as Netflicks or Curzon on Demand have made cinematic viewing accessible to us at all times, they increasingly mark a shift out of the cinema screens. Many films nowadays are subject to multi-platform release, brought out in cinemas, on television streaming services and DVD all on the same day. And whilst moves in the industry such as these allow ever increasing populations to enjoy a variety of cinema, they simultaneously draw audiences away from the cinema screen. Given the option of the cinema or home-viewing, it seems that the majority of people would rather experience a film in the comfort of their own surroundings, free to move and eat as they please, away from the disturbances of the general public.
Not only this, developments in mobile technology mean that increasing numbers of us are watching films on smaller and smaller devices. Where cinema screens used to dominate now we can find an ever-growing population of tiny phone screens, squeezing the biggest of the cinema releases onto the smallest surface area possible. Unsurprisingly, certain directors have expressed their concern with this concept. Moving to an ever-smaller screen, whilst enabling us to enjoy our favourite films wherever we may be, empties the film of the majority of its vision. Not only are we unable to percept small changes and details on-screen but also, we are much more likely to become distracted by the things going on around us. Cinema is no longer an escape from the world around us, it has become embedded within it.
Going to the cinema is not only about enjoying films in their best condition, it is an experience. Whilst cinematic viewing conditions lately have dwindled due to the distinct lack of projectionists, it is still something that can be enjoyed. Plunged into darkness, we are completely isolated from the world around us when the film whirs into action. Nestled in front of the looming cinema screen, our perception of the people around us and even our self is completely destroyed. The film, hopefully, becomes everything that we know. We live the same experiences with the characters, we inhabit their world and briefly, we are connected to the other individuals who watch the film with us.
Novelty cinematic screenings have become increasingly popular and, whilst some concepts seem more successful than others, it is undeniable that they have had a wholly positive effect on our approach to going to the cinema. British cinematic company Secret Cinema is a particularly dab hand at increasing cinematic excitement, their recent Back to the Future event proof enough of this fact. Encouraging audiences to keep the details of their experience a secret, the company has turned going to the cinema back into an experience. Not only did cinema goers receive the film with delight but also, were made to feel as if they were part of something truly special. And they were. Going to the cinema and hearing the reactions of other people inevitably enriches your own experience of film watching. Whilst enjoying a film alone in your home is an equally enjoyable experience, there’s no denying that laughing with a room full of people is better than laughing on your own. When we hear the reactions of other people, our own response becomes more intense. Silent laughs become belly laughs, a single tear becomes a wailing cry. We make the cinema what it is.
We should continue to enjoy the cinema how we want. Times are a-changing, you cannot prevent people from getting what they want. It doesn’t mean that everything has to change, though. Where once the cinema was a day out in which all the family could get involved, it has become a thing which is accessible to us at any time, in any place. By supporting our cinemas, we can turn the act back into a truly immersive experience, one which is different on each visit. The film is a living, breathing entity because we make it so. When we watch a film in groups, we engage in a shared experience, we give the film life because it exists within us. There is nothing more satisfying than the shared, spontaneous applause of an audience after a film. The film has done its part, so why don’t you, too?