“Back in my day the cinema was a community event”

17 Aug

This week our media class discussed the problematic analysis utilised by researchers of grouping cinema audiences as demographic clusters; organised through background and association. Unfortunately, this practice can present a one-dimensional result. To ensure my research of the topic, ‘how has the cinema experience, space and audience changed over the years’, I decided to take the direct path of asking someone who was a ‘movie buff’ back in the day; an expert. In the 1960s, every week, my Grandmother walked to her local ‘Picture Theatre’ which was in the middle of the rural town of West Wyalong NSW. She shared her teenage memories with me describing her true cinema experience as being a Saturday afternoon must, a ‘social ritual’ shared with all her close friends and subsequently the entire Wyalong community.

My secondary research article, describes the cinema as just another public space where audiences would go ‘for entertainment and relaxation; for enlightenment or to be challenged’ (Aveyard 2011). Alternatively, my Grandmother explained that the cinema in her teenage years was a community event promoting positive social networks. Farmers would come off the land, town folk and their entire families, teenagers and their friends would gather at the cinema to meet up, have a chat and share a film. The film content included world news, cartoons for the children and a serial- type presentation so everyone present engaged in the performance and the social experience. ‘They provide opportunities for engagement with film culture, but can help promote important local community connections’ (Aveyard 2011). Nan, being the typical country teenager participated and cherished the positives of the cinema space, describing the experience as a personal ‘rite of passage’ where all the teenagers would meet their friends and race to acquire their seating. ’The older you were, the better the seats, the best being the backseats where all the cool kids sat ‘(Jones 2013, per. comm. 16 August).

The interview process broadened my understanding of the community experience in a rural cinema space and instigated a need to ascertain a complementary view; the social experience of an urban city goer. Why do we go to the movies? ‘‘To see a particular film” was overwhelmingly nominated as the most important factor influencing attendance, regarded as ‘very important’ by 77 % of respondents (Aveyard 2013). Urban audiences tend to partake in the entertainment aspect not for the communal experience. Alternatively, my Grandmother’s simple portrayal of rural cinema depicted a perfect space; a place to ‘have a chat’ and ice cream with friends, all achieved on 2 shillings 6 pence from Dad’s wallet. Nan’s experience of attending her cinema space was to gain a positive sense of belonging, to be part of the community in a public space.


My grandmother represents the REAL CINEMA AUDIENCE. Forget the stereotypical images portraying the cinema experience as excessive techno and pretty people with pretty smiles. It’s all about real people and bona fide emotions; like running to the cinema to get your seat with your friends, full of excitement with coins in your pocket. The 1959 ‘Picture Theatre’ encompasses that small things, simple pleasures are paramount in making life sincerely memorable.

Nanna Jones would be the first person to inform these naïve researchers while rolling her eyes, “back in my day” the local cinema was a community event. By knowing your audience personally, one does not have to assume, to stereotype or to collectively cluster. 1959 was a safe space, a time when you could walk to the pictures alone without fear or judgement, a time to look forward to and to reminisce.

Times have definitely changed but has your cinema experience?


Aveyard, K 2011,’The Place of Cinema and Film in Contemporary Rural Australia’, Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, Vol 8, Is 2, pp 294-307, accessed 16th August, <http://www.participations.org/Volume%208/Issue%202/3a%20Aveyard.pdf>

Val Morgan 2011, Val Morgan Cinema Network, webpage, accessed on the 25th August 2013, < http://www.valmorgan.com.au/audiences/>

One Response to ““Back in my day the cinema was a community event””

  1. Keziah August 18, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Your writing is really easy and refreshing to read. Your nan must be pretty tech-savvy if she’s using Facebook! My nan forgets where the power button of her laptop is (why she even has one I don’t know?)

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