Since I’ve been in Australia a year and a half ago, I haven’t set foot in a single movie theatre (Well I actually have, but just to see the price and had to ‘casually’ walk out – those prices were ridiculously high, compared to what I had been so used to in Vietnam (about AUD3.00-4.00 per ticket).
I absolutely, utterly, extremely love going to the movie theatre on my own, especially when I was doing Year 12 back home.
I would, on a whim, decide to ride my little scooter to the National Cinema Center, after picking out some movie that was on at a reasonably time (usually in the afternoon after school on an extra-classes-free day). And here is how it typically goes once the movie start: I would not bring any popcorn in, only an extra-large cup of bubble-tea (black tea with milk and chewy pearls – yum) – this is because I despise the sounds of crunchy popcorn vibrating through my head during a movie, which is totally distracting and can quickly ruin the whole experience). I would put my phone on silent, take occasional sips of my drink, eyes glued on the enormous screen. I had my favourite seat, of course, all the way on the last row, which offered the best view of the entire room,
and from which I can sometimes crane my neck to see the magic flow of glistening light stretching from the projector behind. After the movie ended, I would ride my scooter back home, pondering over the memorable scenes and quotes, and would think to myself, yeah, I definitely need to do this again, soon.
“Going to the cinema is like returning to the womb; you sit there still and meditative in the darkness, waiting for life to appear on the screen.” – Federico Fellini
In that darkness of theatre, a multitude of activities and events and social interactions can take place (Turnbull 2017) – the cinema space is, in its truest sense, a hub of social synchronisation.
According to Hagerstrand (1970, cited in Ellegard & Svedin 2012, p. 23), there are three constraints to social synchonisation: authority, capacity, and coupling – these will be elaborated on below, as the basis for my analysis of a solo cinema experience.
- Authority: laws, regulations, agreements which are imposed on individuals, for instance, their work hours, operating hours of transportation, etc. For the Year-12 me, this was characterised by the time school started (7am) and finished (12pm), the time the cinema opened and closed, show times, traffic law, and the rules on underages riding a scooter (I was 18 at the time, so I could ride a proper scooter given that I had a certified lisense).
- Capacity: individuals’ skills, knowledge, material/mental assets. Simply put, this refers to my ability to interpret the details in the movie I chose, awareness of the compatibility of that movie and my cinematic taste, and being able to travel to my destination – I had a decent scooter at full fuel level, and I knew the way to the cinema like the back of my hand.
- Coupling: here is when individuals have to match the above two group of constraints together as they see fit, taking into account time-space, to achieve their goal.
Since it was rather problematic (and totally up to chance) to find an exact movie shown at a perfectly convenient time, I generally solved the coupling issues with flexibility in movie choices – I would quickly look up the screen times on my phone right after school, to check out the available options – sparing plenty of time for travelling (considering how traffic in Hanoi often was during rush hours – after school/work). Most of the time, the back row in the room would still be empty by the time I purchased the ticket – so I had that going all well for me.
For the past year and a half, my cinema experiences have shrunken a little – to watching movies on my computer screen in my bedroom, or on the tiny screen during the eight-hour flights back and forth from home. And I miss going to the cinema alone, I miss it dearly.
Too often, people are so concerned about what others would think of them going to the movies alone, whether it seems pathetic and sad – I actually had a friend go wide-eyed at my casual remark of how I enjoy it. Yet to me, it is the rare time I can actually be alone with my thoughts, engrossed in an other-worldly story – it makes real life a whole lot easier and more exciting. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Ellegard, K & Svedin, U 2012, ‘Torsten Hagerstrand’s time geography as the cradle of the activity approach in transport geography’, Journal of Transport Geography, vol. 23, pp. 17-25.
Turnbull, S 2017, ‘Strangers in Public: Cinema Spaces’ PowerPoint slides, BCM241, University of Wollongong, viewed 27 August 2017.