The experience I will describe for this paper is about a night out at a cinema. I am a big fan of streaming, but there is nothing that can make me feel like I do when I go out to a local universal theater on a Friday night and running into colleagues milling about the lobby prior to and after the movie. I must get myself a large popcorn box to make my experience hit its best.
About three weeks ago is when I had gone to the local theatre for a Friday night movie. It was to start at 9 p.m. The theater is in a central place in the city, and the time when the movie shows start featuring in the evening, most businesses in the area are closed, making noise in the area to be less to the extent of not affecting the theatre environment. The theater surrounding was not noisy with fewer people in the block.
Pre-COVID Event Experience
Prior to COVID, the theater entrance would be crowded with lots of people looking to get inside. Also, it would be noisy due to these talks and the staff moving across the place as they engage with customers. The aural inside the theater would also be different, with noises and cheering from the crowds eagerly waiting for the movies to begin. Depending on the movie that is being shown, the number of people present in a theater varies, and most of the time, the broadcasters are after profits, and therefore they bring the best that will attract the most crowd.
The large crowd in the theater triggers a reaction. For instance, when they laugh together simultaneously, a feeling of laughing also comes from within me. Speaking in wordless visuals is common using side smiles and raising eyebrows. Movies in the theater that are tense, scary, and deeply emotional induce feelings from within and one cannot turn away. The role of sound in a film is huge (Chattopadhyay, 2017). The massive speaker system in theaters has a lot to contribute to the experience that one gets concerning the aurality.
Another aspect of a theater is how it is set up before and after the movie. Before the movie, the surrounding has a nice environment whereby a music sound is heard from within, and it makes the people develop a feeling of the space. It begins my evening as I get reminded of the movie magic still to come. Previously the event involved having the company of an unlimited number of friends and loved ones for the experience. The company would contribute to getting the movie better as clarifications and jokes would be made in the group.
Being surrounded by an excited audience feels good and makes everything about the aural experience interesting. An aspect that is missing is a shoulder to clutch on as the preview music plays as we wait for the movie. The preview settles me in and opens my inner senses. The social distancing regulations make this impossible as we could not sit in adjacent seats. After the end of the movie, the place would have sounded different than it did on that day while talking to friends about how the movie was. Comments on the most exciting parts and everyone tries to make their interesting scenes be what others like. Cheering at the end of the film would also fill the room, others clapping and applauding the actors.
Social and Cultural Norms
A significant cultural thing about movies is how free one is from the home environment. Unlike at home, where one can do dishes and still be into a movie, the theater takes one away from the usual mental patterns and primes the mind for an experience. The mind is reset to my expectations and emotions with a new space where I am prepared to pay attention. I can describe the watching as an event.
There is a culture of silence in the theater to allow others to hear the movie. As soon as the movie begins, people shut up to focus on the spoken word. It is the only way to enjoy some movies, especially comedies. Unlike at home, where you can rewind what you did not hear well due to speaking to a sibling, this is absent in the theater. The norm of silence when a movie is progressing poses a challenge to some people who like speaking during the climax of a movie and those who have seen it before and would like to talk to colleagues about a thing on it.
With the invention of movies in the 19th century, people get transported across the world to different times and places. As the film industry became bigger with more runtimes, the advent of sound and other aspects in modern-day movie theaters began to be formed. Space is designed to prevent sound from seeping out through the wall and bounce it back into the room.
Historic changes over the years in the world of the theater industry have affected how the aurality of the space feels. Initially, small rooms were utilized for this purpose, but later the Hollywood adventure saw lavish houses were constructed. The inclusion of sound in the movies in the 1920’s meant a different thing for viewers, and with the growth in technology, high definition sound systems were installed in theaters (Groot, 2018).
To sum up, a movie theater experience is defined a lot by the sound system it has. COVID has affected the aural experience of the event. Cheers are not as huge as I am used to. COVID has disrupted the global film business (Hall & Pasquini, 2020). I cannot hear crowds commenting on the movie. There have been fewer aural reactions from the huge crowd that used to attend, which made the movie more alive. Few laughs are heard in the theatre. The comfort gained by sitting next to friends is not there where I could ask for clarification for parts I missed the sound.
Chattopadhyay, B. (2017). Reconstructing atmospheres: Ambient sound in film and media production. Communication and the Public, 2(4), 352-364.
Groot, K. N. (2018). From silence to sound: Causes and effects of the talkies. Southeastern University.
Hall, S., & Pasquini, S. (2020). Can there be a fairy-tale ending for Hollywood after COVID-19? Retrieved from