Since the 1890’s, cinema has been, one of the few forms of entertainment, that gives us a new experience every time we visit. It is an experience, that always succeeds in making us feel emotion, whether this be happy or sad, intrigued or displeased. Every time, we exit the cinema, we leave with something we didn’t have before we went in, this may be new knowledge or a new opinion on something. Cinema has forever been breaking the bounds of technology, since it’s earliest forms, for example, the Lumiere Brothers’ L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (1895), which depicted a moving steam locomotive. It is in an urban legend that during it’s first screening at the cinema, the audience were so overwhelmed by the moving image, they screamed and ran to the back of the room, whether or not this is true, it is definite that people were still filled with complete shock and fear afterwards, showing just how powerful cinema can be.
The cinematic experience, is the prime reason we go to see a film at a cinema, as oppose to on a television or computer. It is the combined elements of the cinema that allow the audience to become captivated by a film, and for the few hours spent their, to be a time of escape from the real world and to indulge ourselves into the fantasy world. When we see a film on the “big screen”, often the desired effect of that film becomes evident, the use of surround sound and high-definition visuals, helps to make the film more immersive and much more authentic.
It is often argued that large cinema franchises such as Odeon and VUE only screen big-budget, Hollywood films for the sole purpose of attracting large audiences, meaning more money. This begs the question, what about people who want to see low-budget, independent films. Arthouse cinema’s provide the answer, these are a type of cinema that specialize in screening releases from upcoming and relatively unknown directors, who tend to be from the country where the cinema is based, for example the Curzon cinema group, who are owned by Europa Cinemas and situated in the UK, and show films from the UK, with UK born directors and actors. What makes the experience at cinema’s like this so unique is that it gives the audience a sense of intimacy towards a film, and makes it more private and more personal, something unachievable at larger cinema’s. Arthouse cinema’s also tend to be less demographically based, meaning despite films being largely unfavourable by mainstream audiences, the films can attract people from a variety of age types and both genders, they will also be more accessible to film fans in general instead of people who prefer only certain genres of film.
At the other end of the spectrum, the introduction of the IMAX (Image Maximum) cinema for use in feature films, is creating a whole new visual experience for audiences. The IMAX screens are capable of showing films at a far greater size and resolution than that of conventional cinema screens. The whole purpose of these larger screens, is to make the film even more immersive for the viewer, the screen is large enough to fill your field of vision and beyond meaning viewers have to turn the heads at times to see what is actually going on, this enhances the feeling of motion making the film feel even more realistic. IMAX also goes hand in hand with 3D cinema, and despite their criticism for being a just being a money making tool for distributors, it is these technological advancements that encourage people to keep going to the cinema.
As much as it seems that technology is bettering people to go the cinema, it is arguably doing just as much to cause less people to go the cinema; VOD services such as Netflix and television movie channels like Sky Movies are influencing more people to watch a film from their own home, the obvious benefits are of course having the comfort to watch film at any time and any place, and is some cases for much cheaper. However, what these services lack is one of the most traditional and timeless aspects of cinema, the social experience. Cinema unites people, every single person in the theatre feels the emotions of the film, and every one will have a different opinion about something afterwards. Not only does the cinema provide a conversation topic after the film, a moment to reflect, but it gives us something to look forward to in anticipation and excitement beforehand, and when you know everyone else is feeling that anticipation, it makes it all the more genuine. The cinema contributes to the overall social currency, and many social events arise from it. New releases that are next in a franchise, for example the upcoming new Star Wars film, may cause cinema’s to hold a night showing all of the Star Wars films, which will attract large numbers of people to go the cinema. Another tradition of cinema, that relates to both the cinematic and social experience are the ancillary products that the cinema provides, this may be food such as popcorn, which has always been affiliated with going to see a film, and more recently the 3D glasses that are handed out before a film. Ancillary services have expanded to the point of their being individual areas in a cinema lobby dedicated to that product, for example small Ben & Jerry’s shops within the Odeon cinema’s.
As for the future of the cinema, it remains uncertain to how popular it will be in years to come, one thing for sure is that it will continue to change, as it always has, it will always be ambitious with it’s ideas and will always divide opinion. However, surely if it has managed to survive through many tribulations and times of doubt, including economic downfalls World Wars, and dictators who tried to have it ridded from society, it is one of the few forms of entertainment that as stood the test of time, which means their must be something worth going for.