When your subject coordinator tells you to take a trip to the cinema for this week’s blog post, usually you jump for joy and head straight there (because tomorrow is Cheap Tuesday and tickets are slightly more affordable for the poor uni student). Me? I didn’t find out about this until Friday and by then I was so damn sick with the plague the only movies I could comprehend were romcoms on Netflix.
In one night managed to watch It’s a Boy Girl Thing (2006), Love and Other Disasters (2006) and The Spectacular Now (2014). When I’m feeling low, I really slam the feel good fluff stories. They give me hope.
Anyway, since the focus of this whole experience is what we think the future of cinema will be, how it’s going to change in the next 5-10 years, I’ve got a story from April I think will be of interest.
If you could cast your mind back to the time of the Sydney Storm, where people were freaking out about record-breaking mms of water. (Seriously, Brisbane goes through this every year.) About two weeks earlier I had pre-purchased two tickets to Marvel’s Avengers 2: Age of Ultron Wednesday night advanced screening for myself and my friend, Brooke, a teacher from Western Sydney. The premier fell on the third day of the storm, Wednesday 22 April 8:45 PM at Event Cinemas in Burwood. Brooke and I are both big fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) so the priority here was in seeing the movie as soon as humanly possible, location be damned. Burwood was the closest possible middle ground for us both however it was not without its complications (here’s where the storm comes in). I was in Wollongong all day Wednesday for uni and a landslip in Otford had closed the South Coast train line indefinitely.
Terrified I was going to be late or worse, stranded in Wollongong, I kept up a running commentary of my travel plans with Brooke via text message and Facebook Messenger. I made it to the train station around 5:30 PM as planned, intending to arrive at Central just after 7 on the condition that there was no stopping to get a bus from Thirroul to Helensborough or Waterfall. I literally held my breath as we pulled into Thirroul train station and nothing happened. No announcement was made. I returned to cutting the sleeves off a long sleeve boys’ size 14 Avengers shirt because I simply had to wear something to show my support for the franchise. (It’s impossible to find MCU clothes for women but I am fortunate enough to still fit into the largest boys’ shirts at Target, something I only realised days before at the suggestion of Brooke when I couldn’t find anything to wear.)
Miraculously, I was a few minutes early to Central and able to switch to an earlier train to Burwood. When I finally got there, we had enough time to find a place to eat (the most spicy vegetarian udon noodles I’ve ever had the misfortune of ordering) and get back to the cinema with time to buy coffee and snacks. (There was a whole debacle over my preordered Avengers drink cup and popcorn but I won’t get into that now.) We even ran into a mutual friend, Jaimee. It turns out Burwood is her local cinema. She didn’t realise it was the one of the only cinemas in Sydney that offered advanced screenings until we told her, Burwood being so out of the way for Brooke and me.
There were actually a number of cinemas screening the movie, it was so popular. When it came time to enter the cinema and take our seats (closest to the middle towards the back – the best I could manage), I was thrilled to see a cinema completely full. It’s not something I’ve experienced very often in my life. The only other times I can think of was the Shrek 2 screening I saw in Bundaberg with my father and cousin, and the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 screening I saw in New York City with my mother. That time we couldn’t even sit together. I made friends with the people around me because the love of Harry Potter transcends the fear of strangers. Also, 17-year-old me didn’t look very threatening.
I’m getting off topic.
Brooke and I took some obligatory selfies, chatted a little about what to expect and settled into watch the preview trailers.
Throughout the movie the whole audience laughed together at the funny parts on screen. We became a collective, I think, united by something we all cared about. Advanced screenings attract a certain type of person, especially an MCU advanced screening. Usually, that type of person is a fan, someone invested in the cultural product we’ve all arrived to consume. The experience was so overwhelmingly positive I managed for the most part to forget about the large man on my other side who really needed a funnel to properly consume all the snacks he was shovelling loudly into his mouth.
If you had asked me then what I thought about the future of cinema, I would have said I hope it doesn’t change. That experience is crystallised in my memory forever. Unfortunately, it is not the only experience I remember.
Being the MCU fan I am, I persuaded my mother to accompany me to see Avengers 2 again the following weekend. We went to the local cinema, Hoyts Warringah Mall, on a Saturday night. The movie was screened in one of the smallest cinemas there. No one laughed out loud. There was a row of teenagers in the front of us who could neither sit still nor shut up. I was relieved when the girls lost interest in the boys and went to sit on the other side of the aisle. The movie was still the same but the people, of which there weren’t many, were completely different.
I’m sad to say the majority of my cinematic experiences is like this. Those truly unique experiences are deteriorating in number. Every now and again a group of people will come together and enjoy something as a collective but, with the development of technology, most will be too lazy to try. The convenience of home viewing will probably win out over travelling to a cinema. I just hope there will still be ways to bring fans together.