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The Hive Mind Goes To The Movies

The Hive Mind Goes To The Movies

By Jonahh Oestreich • March 25th, 2012

The near future. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I call up my friends, and we decide to go to the cinema. The choice what movie to watch is pretty easy however, the question what screen to choose is an entirely different matter. Half of us would like to go to the “Watch & Share” screen where you can text, facebook and tweet during the film. I’m with the other half who just want to see the movie and nothing but the movie. After a somewhat heated discussion we split up, and there goes the “social event” — the real-life version of it, anyway.

In this future, the term Multiplex has acquired a whole new meaning, and it seems this is anything but “science-fiction”. The findings of a poll by market research firm Penn Schoen Berland for The Hollywood Reporter are rather clear on that.

“The poll found that a majority of 18-to-34-year-olds believe using social media while watching a movie in a theater would add to their experience, and nearly half would be interested in going to theaters that allowed texting and web surfing.”

I’m a multitasker. All day I’m doing way more than one thing at a time, more or less successfully. In the cinema though I don’t want to do that, the more so as watching a movie can be a form of multitasking in its own right. Already I have to ignore the domestic dispute one row down and the smell of junk food coming from the row behind me, filter out the constant noise of cracker bags right of me, and tune out the ongoing discussion of the running film to the left.

I’m old enough to remember that in cinemas way back when, any noise was a breach of etiquette and expressively frowned upon, let alone coming late and covering the screen with an eccentric hairdo for another minute or so (if they still let you in at all, that is).

Over the last decade or so, the world has changed, the cinemas have changed, and the movie experience has changed, too. That’s the way things go. More and more we are plugged into the global hive mind that has emerged with sites like Facebook and Twitter. Sooner or later, film moguls and cinemas will develop and implement schemes and technologies to make money from the new trend. Social-media-friendly seats are maybe just the first step.

“Millennials want their public moviegoing experience to replicate their own private media experiences.” ~ Jon Penn

I’m not sure what kind of movies will be made to cater for this demand. In the early years of the internet, some TV networks have tried to make the movie experience at home more “interactive” with multiple plots and endings aired on two or more channels simultaneously. It didn’t quite work out as people gave up in the face of too much choice.

I imagine there will be a lot more “open” stories where it doesn’t matter if you miss a dialogue, a twist or a clue. Maybe the movies will be interrupted by music clips or commercials, like at home, where you can use the ad-break to check your emails and tell your friends on Twitter how bad the show is, or a particular actor. For many people, the use of “social media” in the cinema might be about actors, and especially about celebrities.

Certainly, there are many ways to watch a movie, and all depends on what you want to take away from it. I’m not afraid for my personal cinema experience, as long as I have the choice and the opportunity to watch a movie undisturbed and without being forced to take part in other people’s lives during the show, and it seems I’m not alone there.

“75% of social networkers say being able to use a mobile phone in a movie theater would make the experience distracting and less satisfying.” ~ THR Poll

The poll also found that traditional marketing like trailers and previews as well as speaking with friends and family offline are still the biggest factors in moviegoing decisions but already 9% act on comments and reviews on social networking sites.

I wonder if social media alone, in the long run, will make or break a movie — rather than the story itself. Will we still be able to resist the pull and make up our own mind? Will we even dare? Are storytellers and filmmakers going to give in and try to predict how the text-and-share generation would judge a film?

In future, going to the movies will mean something different. It’s going to be like a matrix where we can divide our attention and follow numerous strands of events on and off screen, if we choose to do so. It’s a different question whether or not we will be able find inspiration and can experience the essence of a film, and the uniqueness in a story as we see it — as an independently thinking and feeling human being.

Jonahh Oestreich

Jonahh Oestreich

One of the Editors in Chief and our webmaster, Jonahh is a photographer and journalist who has been working in the media industry for over 15 years, mainly in television, design and art. As a boy, he made his first short film with an 8mm camera and the help of his father. His obsession with (moving) images and stories hasn’t faded since.

His passion for intricate stories and the ‘seven basic plots’ (ask him!) often times makes his friends and family put him in the doghouse for "predicting" too many twists and endings.

You can follow Jonahh on Twitter @Resonance_Zero.

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