Moviegoing has changed drastically over the past decades. With enhanced technology, 3D movies are now of better quality. Soundtracks have also improved tremendously. Even though there are a lot of IMAX cinemas all over the country, people still love watching films on their television sets (Schober 2013, p. 15).
Choosing My Interviewee
I had an opportunity to interview an elderly businessman called Peter who owns a retail music and movie store at Boylston Street, Boston. The man agreed to a 2-hour interview session at his business premises. The aim of my interview was to discuss his experience of going to the movies during the 1970s. I chose this person mainly because of his job, which made me assume that as a movie store owner, had passion in cinematography when he was young. According to my expectations, my interviewee’s history and experience of going to movie theatres began in 1968 when he was 16 years old. My interviewee recalled Combat Zone as the area where they used to go and watch movies. The region had several movie theatres including, but Peter recalled RKO-Keith and Paramount theaters as his favorite venues. From the interview, I was able to establish the similarities and differences between the era of cinematography in the period prior to 1975 and cinema-going in our present time.
Analysis of the Interview
From the interview, it is clear that early cinema was a ‘cinema of attractions’ where spectacle was emphasized more that the narrative. Cinema going was a form of leisure open to all as well as a part of the broader popular entertainment. According to Christine Geraghty, during the post-war period, the cinema audience was mostly heterogenic, and there were diverse ways of using cinema venues as social places. Cinemagoers would has its regular crew who would sit in the same place every time. The experience of cinema-going was surrounded by a physical liking and glamour. The exhibition context often was a fore front to the technology, which is the center stage in today’s cinema-going (Geraghty 2000 p. 16). Cinema-going offered a form of relief from the reality of stressful experiences people used to encounter.
With the emergence of television in the 1950s and 1960s, television became an important medium that appeared more fashionable as opposed to cinema-going which started to appear old-fashioned (Gallucci 2000 p. 32). There was a development of fragmentation of the audiences in the 1960s where the young generation became the dominant cinemagoers. Although they had been the majority even in the previous years, this time, they took the center stage which affected cinema going where it started to be viewed as a dating place for young people (Greenberg 2010 p. 34). During the 1970s, VCRs and video clubs appeared where people had an opportunity to choose movies of their choice and carry it to their homes. This is the same experience today where people who want to watch movies at home have DVDs, SUPERVCD and Internet (Mulvey 2003 p. 63).
Discussion of the Eras of Cinematography
Moviegoing has changed drastically as compared to the 1950s, 60s; presently, cinemas are not so popular. With the many television networks, one can watch a movie at home. In the 60s, most of the people did not own television sets, and the only place they could watch a movie was cinema. However, people still visit the IMAX to watch 3D films, a technology derived back in the 1950s (Bordwell & Thompson 1994 p. 40).
Movie posters, day bills, or advertising slides are different. During the era of my interviewee’s juvenility, film posters were printed in different shapes and sizes from 1910 to 1980. If a producer was popular then, a large number of poster sizes were produced. Movie posters were designed on one sheet (27” X 41”), then came the three sheet (41” X81”), one sheet positioned alongside the vertical side. The six-sheet followed (81” X 81”); three sheet placed alongside the vertical sides. Lastly, there was a twenty-four sheet (106” X 234”), which was of a billboard size (Aitken 2013 p. 21). Today, advertisements are spread via the internet on movie websites, outside cinema theaters, on the exhibitor's pressbook, DVD packages, flyers as well as newspapers and magazines advertisements.
The emergence of internet enabled people to visit movie sites and download movies of their choice to their laptops or PCs. These are the major competitors of cinemas in today’s experiences. This means that in today’s era, cinema going is not a dominant leisure activity as it was in the old times; neither is it a family entertainment activity that it used to be. The power of choice impacts cinema going as it does in many other arenas of the postmodern world (Sedgwick & Pokorny 2004 p. 75). This interview demonstrates how moviegoing has changed and transformed. Back then, people used to visit the cinemas since televisions had not been invented or they did not own a TV set. However, presently people watch movies at homes as they are broadcasted from the various television networks (Sedgwick 2002 p. 23).
Impact of Cinema Going
Films had a significant impact on social life. Back then, films reflected the decade of fashion, fun, transitional cultural beliefs and values, fabulous social changes such as marches, civil rights era, and rock ‘n’ roll. At that time, people used to ape styles and fashions worn by actors, which made them confident among their peers because of the enhanced mode of dressing (Nochimson 2010 p. 16).
There are more similarities than differences between the two eras related to cinema going in economic aspect. It is important to note that going to the cinema has a broader economic context of movie systems such as movie production. In addition, cinema going in our era as well as in the past is viewed through the context of mass communication and mass media (Gallucci 2000 p. 35). This means that most movies are intended to reach the mass audience, and this has not changed. Finally, cinema going is related to globalization in that people across the globe are able to see the same movies most of which are produced in Hollywood.
Ms. : Can you describe the experience of going to the movies? How did you feel when you were going to the movies?
Mr. : Our entire family used to visit the theaters. Recalling the experience assists me to grasp the idea of the influential years of my movie viewing life. The movies we saw replicated our beliefs and values at that stage of life: they were sentimental, melodramatic, and celebrated motivating spiritual and religious themes and resolute human conflicts tidily and neatly.
Ms. : Where were films shown at your home town?
Mr. : They were mainly shown in the cinemas and theaters. With the introduction of television, movie audiences started declining. Film companies had to diversify into other forms of entertainment such as TV movies, publishing, introduction of series and records. Ms. : How did you find out about upcoming films?
Mr. : Since the invention of television, most of the next movies were advertised through it, because it had become the efficient mode of communication. Billboards also served this purpose. They were placed alongside the roads, and one could see which movie was being advertised as they drove.
Ms. : How were films marketed and promoted?
Mr. : This was done by placing advertisements in magazines, television networks, and newspapers. Flyers were also given out especially in traffic jams. Sometimes, I had to drive myself to the cinemas to learn about the latest films and what time they would air it.
Ms. : Were all the seats of the same price and quality, or were there better and worse seats? Were there ushers? What was the theater itself like?
Mr. : The seats were of different prices. Admission prices differed; as for first-run English language halls, one had to pay $1 for front stall, $2 for back stall, and $3 for circles. The seats were quite different. For VIPs, the seats were of better quality than for the rest, though all seats were of good condition. Ushers were mainly uninformed. Their work was to keep away people with no tickets from entering the theaters, scold those who were too loud, and guide people to sit down in case they arrived after the film had begun.
Ms : Did you ever go to a drive-in? What were they like? Did you ever see a movie in 3D?
Mr. : Yes, drive-in theater was fun since one could watch a movie from the comfort and privacy of their cars. The drive-in theater consisted of a concession stand, an outdoor movie screen, a huge parking lot, and a projection booth. I happened to watch a horror movie in 3D. Although the 3D movies were expensive, the idea back then was not good since the viewing was blurry.
Ms. : Can you remember the introduction of any new moving image technologies (e.g. Widescreen or Cinerama or IMAX; color; Super 8 ‘home movies’; digital sound)?
Mr. : I recall the introduction of Cinerama (1952). This technology used multi-projector systems. It presented wider images compared to the old technology. Though it seemed impressive, it was complicated to install.
Cinemagoers can be defined as a group of people who have prefer a common framework of entertainment. This group of people shares common values, knowledge, language as well as the activity of going to the cinema. They also followed the same norms of behavior such as obtaining tickets for the movies and not disturbing other people watching the movie with them. They had the same tradition of going to the cinema. These aspects of cinema going have not changed over the years.
However, there exists a specific difference between the two eras. First, cinema as a social place has become more diverse. Cinemas can be divided into traditional cinemas, shopping mall theatres, and multiplexes. In the past, the social place was limited to traditional movie theatres alone. Another difference relates to the experience of going to the movies prior to 1975. In the post-war era and up to the late 1970s, going to the cinema as a form of entertainment did not face much competition as opposed to the experience today where people can view movies from the comfort of their homes through diverse media channels such as television, computers, and gadgets.