Cinematic Experiences Across 3 Generations.

The cinema has been a prominent fixture of every generation going back close to a hundred years. These places of congregation; for families, couples, friendships and a desire for entertainment and escape, have formulated the popular culture each generation grows up in. It develops their minds, their understandings and their beliefs, which are inadvertently personal, individual emotions which are however formulated in the public space of the cinema. For this assessment, I have decided to explore this experience across three generations; my grandparents, my parents and ours and focusing on the age group of their experiences between 15-20. The assessment was carried out as an interview between myself and those who participated, as it captures the raw emotions and words captured by my interviewees, and as such I have printed the questions and answers below. I hope that this piece will shape our understanding of how the media, audience and place shape our generation and our societies, by doing so it will delve into films, the audience and the cinema. I shall also highlight the role Torsten Hagerstrand 3 Constraints (capability, coupling and time). 

Firstly, I approached my grandparents to discuss their experiences with me. I was intrigued to get an understanding of how their generation experienced and understood the cinematic space, especially after watching shows such as Happy Days which focused on the same generation and age group and what they got up to.

The Baby Boomer’s  (Grandparents)

Could you inform us which cinemas you went to and when?

Paul McParland:

“Bexley, Rockdale and Hurstville theatres. With neighbours usually saturday afternoon. Seldom Friday or Saturday nights, not through the week.”

Hurstville Civic Cinema, closed in 1969.

Kae McParland

“When I was this age we had 2 venues to see movies. One was the cinema and the other was the Drive In. We went with our current boy/girlfriend and this was usually the highlight of the weekend. You had to go to the Drive In of an evening because it had to be dark to see the screen.”

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE FOR US. WHAT YOU SAW AND WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE

Paul

“Looked good in colour, especially as films became more fast-paced and exciting. Films such as crime or war were often the most exciting ones to see, especially the Westerns.”

Kae

“The Drive Ins were huge car parks with each car space having a speaker on a stand which you unhooked and attached to the car window. Sometimes people would forget and drive off with their speaker still attached- Not a very good idea. Sometimes you went with a group of friends and tried to park next to each other. The cinemas only had 1 screen and the seats weren’t the most comfortable, seeing as we were in a car. There was usually 2 movies shown at each venue, the main movie being the last with an interval in between.

The Skyline, Bankstown (1960’s)

 HOSPITALITY WISE, WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH FOOD, DRINKS, SERVICE ETC

Paul

“Had to serve yourself by going to the store before hand and only brought only sweets and drinks.” 

Kae

“At the Drive In you mainly took your own food because it was quite expensive and not too much to choose from. You could buy fish and chips, pies, sausage rolls, ice cream and non-alcoholic drinks. I think everyone took an esky with alcoholic drinks in them, as there were no breathalysers then so you didn’t worry.”

HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THESE EXPERIENCES TO YOUR CINEMATIC EXPERIENCES TODAY

Paul

“Completely different, and not exactly better. Prices for admission and food are dearer, and movies now aren’t as interesting, you know what can happen and movies are too whiny about everything.”

Kae

“The Drive Ins were a lot more casual. You certainly didn’t have to dress up. If you had children they usually wore PJ’s because they would go to sleep in the car on the way home. You took pillows and blankets to make yourself comfortable. Going to the cinema was a lot more formal. You usually wore your best clothes and it was a total night out because of the length of the 2 movies.

The cinemas today have more screens and show only one movie at a time. Therefore no intervals and so it makes it a lot quicker and you can go throughout the day at many different times.”

I found their reflections intriguing, especially regarding the experiences of Drive In’s and the social etiquette surrounding a trip to the cinema compared to that of today. In regard to the Three Constraints, I feel that my Nan raises the Capability Constraint when she discusses the different between yesterday’s and today’s programming. She states that today’s cinemas have more screens and therefore are able to showcase more films at varying times throughout the day. She also noted that this allows people to have more choices of when they go and what they see. My Grandfather also raises this constraint when he states they would only go to the cinema’s on a saturday afternoon, mainly due to the length of the films. There seems to be little Authority Constraints, mainly owing to their age by then and the freedom of not having to worry about a rage of things that parents and teenagers today have to, as put by my Nan.

Generation X (Parents)

Could you inform us which cinemas you went to and when?

Leisa Steele

I remember going to the cinemas at Padstow and Bankstown, as well as the Bankstown Drive In’s, this was around the mid-to-late 1980’s.

Paul Steele

I went to Beverly Hills Cinema and the Sussex Inlet Cinema

Sussex Inlet Cinema

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE FOR US. WHAT YOU SAW AND WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE

Leisa

The Bankstown and Padstow theatres were old-fashioned and I remember Padstow had tiered seating and the Drive In’s were a treat. I remember seeing films such as Pete’s Dragon, Gallipoli and Grease over the years. At the Drive In’s, we had to hook the bulky speaker onto the car window, but when they changed it so it hooked onto your aerial and then transmitted into your car via the radio- that was a big thing! One day during the School Holidays, my sister and I caught the bus by ourselves and went to the cinema to watch The Raggedy Anne Movie, we thought we were so grown up by doing so.

HOSPITALITY WISE, WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH FOOD, DRINKS, SERVICE ETC

Leisa

We always took food with us; maybe buying a choc-top and popcorn. I remember some cinemas didn’t like you having hot food during sessions, even though they would sell you hot chips during the intermissions. My mum would just sneak them back to us as we didn’t want to waste food and money!

Paul

Very basic, we just bought things like popcorn, soft drink and ice cream. I think I always bought food. and I remember rolling Jaffa’s down the aisles with friends.

HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THESE EXPERIENCES TO YOUR CINEMATIC EXPERIENCES TODAY

Leisa

I don’t think there’s quite the same atmosphere today. The Drive In’s are still pretty special but there’s only one in Sydney now (I think). The cinemas today are really expensive, especially for families, such as Event or Hoyts. Cinemas that aren’t expensive are generally too crowded, especially as mostly families go there due to the cost. The advent of VMax and Gold Class has added to the specialness of going to the movies, however have also added expenses and are a luxury.

Paul

I think it was better because you had to go there to watch a movie, you couldn’t see it at home at all, unlike today where you can access films both legally and illegally when they come out. The atmosphere was a lot better and you would go out of your way to go out with friends to have a good time, however today has better sound and picture quality.

I found my parents have an interesting mix between the experiences of the generation before them and those of our generation today. Film genres that we have today came into prominence with their generation, as well as actors such as Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson and others. I found my mother had more Authority-related Constraints, such as when they would go and how they got food and drinks. My father meanwhile does not seem to have any such constraints, and seems to reflect on times of joy and fanfare. In regards to Coupling Constraints, it appears my mother would go often with her sister, mum and sometimes friends; whereas my father seemed to attend with friends more often than family.

Generation Y/Millennials

Soliette-Maree Roa

Could you inform us which cinemas you went to and when?

 I go to Event Cinemas at Macarthur Square and Dumaresq Street cinemas in Campbelltown, which one I go to depends on how much I want to spend on a movie.

Event Cinemas Campbelltown.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE FOR US. WHAT YOU SAW AND WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE

I always enjoy going to the movies, it’s my favourite pass time. My cinematic experience is pleasant, I watched the film ‘Pan’ at Event cinema Macarthur square. The seats were comfy, the sound and lighting was good, and even though the trailers at the beginning were quite long, I still enjoy watching them. The film ‘Pan’ was vibrant in color and even though Peter’s accent annoyed in my opinion everyone in the cinema room, the film was still enjoyable and interesting to watch.

HOSPITALITY WISE, WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH FOOD, DRINKS, SERVICE ETC

I cannot watch a film without popcorn and drinks. It just does not make the experience feel right at all. Service was good, there was someone there at the counter when purchasing tickets and food. The popcorn and drinks were a bit overpriced, but going to the movies isn’t an everyday experience so it doesn’t seem to bother me. All staff are quite nice at the cinemas, I enjoy the fact that there aren’t any self serve places, that you are greeted and assisted by real workers. It just makes the experience a lot better.

Soliette’s experience is both different yet similar to those of our other two generations. Whilst there is no mention of Drive Ins or intermissions, there is still the issue’s of costs (tickets, food), length (films, trailers) and the desire to see films. Whilst our elder generations felt they did not feel the same atmosphere of yesteryear, Soliette states she does, which is perhaps more an age-related emotion than a change of experience. Like they say, the older you get, the less exciting your birthdays and christmas become. Soliette does not raise any issues that would be considered part of the Constraints, however one could argue that her desire for popcorn and drink to make for a good experience is a Capability Constraint.

I hope this assessment is somewhat intriguing and thought-provoking for those who have read it, and too I hope that this sheds light on three generations and their differing experiences of the cinema.

Stay Classy UOW,

Todd Steele.

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