What’s more immersive than a cinema?
You’re in the queue. If you’re like me, you’ve come early so you can a) get good seats where you can stretch your legs and b) you can watch the trailers. You’ve bought your tickets. You go up to the snack stand. You then remember that you have a stash in the rucksack you never normally use, because, let’s face it – who’s paying 3 quid for Jelly Babies that cost a pound in the shop down the road?
You hand your ticket to the usher, they tell you where the screen is. Screen 3. On the second left. You take a look at the posters and decide what you’ll be seeing the next time you’re here. You walk in. You sit through some pithy ads you see on TV, then the trailers (yes!). Then the lights go off completely. And then…
And then. The anticipation of the new. You’re not sure what to expect. I sometimes feel nervous, excited, ready to be entertained. The outside doesn’t exist. All of life’s dramas and stresses are forgotten, suspended in time, at least for a few wonderful hours. The outside world, with all of its complications, frustrations and distractions, is not allowed in here. Because, within a cinema, I am immersed.
What does “Immersive cinema” actually mean?
The term “Immersive cinema” has been around for decades, but its probably got lodged in your psyche in the 2000s when Secret Cinema launched. For anyone not au fait with what they do, they take films like The Shawshank Redemption and Back to The Future and transport them from the confines of a cinema, planting them onto a blank canvas, free for those present to reimagine how the film will be experienced, placing participants in the universe of the narrative. It requests that the audience take on identities, wear clothes that are consistent of the era and act as if they are part of the story.
After being part of the Back To The Future performance in 2014, we were fully convinced of its power from actors who were playing characters from the film, to 50’s themed houses and restaurants, the experience was unforgettable.
Why else immersive cinema is wildy popular? Because the possibilities are infinite.
But, here’s what troubles me.
As companies attempt to create the next big experiential event that turns heads and gets audience spreading the word, I can’t help thinking that somewhere, along the line, we’ve forgotten the magic that exists within a cinema.
That anticipation you have when walking into a cinema, the sinking into those velvet like chairs (if you’re fancy), is something not to be discarded, but something to cherish.
Pushing the boundaries?
Immersive cinema attempts to push the boundaries of what is possible in various venues, but can we, as event organisers say that we’ve exhausted all of the possibilities that exist in a cinema? Where else can you find an audience are doing nothing else but being totally engaged with what’s on the screen?
I hear those who disagree now – “you’re probably more engaged in an environment outside of the cinema than within one.”
It’s a fair point – perhaps we take this stance. Whenever we’ve created an event outside the confines of the cinema, we’re always asking our audience to share images, use the hashtag, and disseminate the word that they’re having the best time.
We call it coverage, but it’s probably the sight and sound of our egos being satisfied by the validation of many.
When we do these activities, our audience are engaged. Not immersed.
Our audience remain part of the world, of which they are active participants. The images they see here are astounding, the environment is aesthetically pleasing, but the altered mental state we want our audience to have within a cinema isn’t there. Instead, the audience do what they’d do anywhere else, enjoy, comment, like, tweet, Retweet, post, emoji, snap.
They engage. But they do not immerse themselves.
No, instead, I’m suggesting that that feeling, at this time, can only be realised in the cinema.
We can have bigger budgets, bigger ideas, bigger audiences that achieve fame, fortune and recognition that turn us into household names, but the very thing we strive to achieve will always be missing.
Instead, by deconstructing the cinematic experience of the new and attempting to find unique ways to go deeper, immerse further and see more, we see just how your local multiplex can be transformed into something, so much more. Care to join us?
So, back to our original question – what’s more immersive than a cinema?
You want my honest opinion? Nothing is.