Sunday Special: Why Don’t You Just Stay At Home? by Leslie Byron Pitt

Afternoon everyone,

Leslie is one of my favorite film reviewers and he wrote this piece in response to the one we link to below. He wanted it up today and I was happy to oblige. You can find more of his work, and you really should, at Afrofilmviewer and you can find him on Twitter under the same name.

I once remember going to a gig and had a good friend state that smart phones have begun to ruin the gig going experience.  As opposed to standing/sitting and enjoying the music being played, your view would be blocked by a sea of electric blue tinted screens, struggling to grab a blurred screenshot of whatever band/artist you paid £23 to see. Looking at such an image, I considered the point a fair one. There is a certain experience felt at such gigs and modern technology to some, may have hampered a touch of the mystique.

So I found myself strangely reminded of this when this blog post by Hunterwalks was retweeted on my feed. To me it felt like “the customers always right” gone mad. That people should pay money to sit and half watch a movie while “multitasking”. This could be of course tweeting and texting friends, playing Temple Run or hearting Instagram pictures. Hunter may also be considering just working away from home. But this also seems like a waste of time. The movie is mere background noise for the so called social experience or “doing other things”. And why have this? Because of how the home experience has changed. Because we do it with TV and home video, the dinosaur that is the cinema industry should alter.

We often get our bad habits from the “idiot box” and even I have succumbed to them. Live tweeting while the footballs on, face booking during a Simpsons repeat. Writing articles while Simon Cowell sneers at a pre-pubescent’s dog howling (they call it singing).   Distracting myself needlessly because hey, there’s a big wide world out there that’s doing something. But still even now, if there’s something I wish to watch I put the phone down and engage. Why? Well there’s the slightly pompous reason of wanting to pay respect to what I’m watching. But ultimately it’s because whatever I’m watching should garner attention whatever it is so I can actually enjoy it. I don’t desire to be involved in other things. Neither task gets the true attention it deserves.

The idea of low lighted, talking, smartphone screenings makes me Imagine a modern audience of Charlie Brooker’s Nathan Barley. An audience which is always “on”. A river of attention seeking, A.D.D, meme hunting vessels. Happily going to the movie to say that they were there during the first run, but not fully engaging. This second screen “experience” is one to say you were at the experience, but you didn’t actually experience it. Tweeting your pal about where you are rather than indulging in the film. It’s the “FIRST!” forum post of cinema going.

I mean isn’t this second screen experience, one of the reasons we should help establish VOD and streaming services even more? So people who enjoy the dark auditorium will not be distracted by someone who just has to pinterest a bunch of pictures? I’m sorry, but I don’t see why the theater experience should entertain the idea. Even from a market standpoint (consider the cost of such an experiment).

I’m already frustrated that multiplexes limit can often limit choice with 3D and 2D screenings playing in two separate screens. Furthermore you wouldn’t do this in a theatre, Richard Griffiths (God rest his soul) would have your guts for garters. But that is due to the respect we still try and give theatre going. A quick glance at a multiplex’s lack of ushers often shows how we feel about film and its audience. We already see parents who consider cinemas as nurseries. And despite many of the features we go to see, costing the GDP of a small country, there’s now a belief that we should look at cinemas as massive living rooms? Excuse me for my belligerence, but I don’t do glamping (camping with home comforts = glamorous camping) so why would I want my cinemas to be a home extension?

I’m not sure about Hunterwalk but I go to the cinema almost as a weekly pilgrimage. To de stress and disengage from the outside world and indulge in an intimacy that existed before I even did. I watch films for a connection with the text and escapism away from my friends photos of food. I see no pleasure in halving my attention. I’m no doctor/drug dealer. I’m not on call. The world can go on without my social network narcissism for a while. In the two hours that I’m in the cinema, there’s nothing else of importance I really need to engage with. Even if it is just robots hitting each other. I feel I paid money to give it my full attention.

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