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Free film series makes movies a communal experience

Study shows movie ticket sales are down as streaming services grow

Two students sit in a Langara auditorium. Empty seats is a growing concern for moviegoers. Photo: Liam Hill-Allan
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Reported by Liam Hill-Allan

Langara’s upcoming free film series, Modern Times, gives students the opportunity to watch movies as part of an audience, an activity which statistics suggest is on the decline.

According to film historian and SFU lecturer Joseph Clark, watching a movie as part of a group can enhance the experience. But reports show that the numbers of cinema-goers is on the decline with the advent of Netflix and other home movie streaming services.

A communal experience

“I think that communal experience is actually really important,” Clark said. “Watching in a communal environment with an audience can be a really important way to see the world differently.”

Simon Rolston, one of the film series organizers, said that watching a film with others can lead to interesting discussions.

“It’s really easy for people to be able to engage with it when they’re still sitting in the seats,” Rolston said.

While cinema-style viewing may enhance the movie experience, a 2019 survey conducted by Box Office Mojo shows that North American movie ticket sales have declined by around 17 per cent since 2002.

The rise of streaming services

Cinema alternatives like Netflix are wildly popular. A 2018 report published by Sandvine, a networking equipment company, revealed Netflix accounts for almost 15 per cent of internet downstream traffic worldwide.

The popularity of home streaming services has some in the industry advocating for the cinema experience. At the Cinema Audio Society awards earlier this month, film director Steven Spielberg said that while at-home viewing has improved, the movie theatre experience is irreplaceable.

“There is nothing like going to a big dark theatre and having the experience wash over you,” said Spielberg.

Langara student Dylan Lindsey said he typically streams movies online for convenience, though he still favours the movie theatre experience.

“It’s more enjoyable to go with friends to the theatre,” said Lindsey.

The theme of this year’s film series is time and technology and will run from Feb. 27 to March 21.

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