Last week, I discussed how bad-mannered moviegoers can make for a poor movie-going experience, elaborating on how this can affect the work of a film critic. I had intended this article to focus on how theaters deal with disruptive moviegoers, however, in researching for this article, I came across a point of interest not previously considered, and that is the subject of theaters setting the tone for a particular event.
“The needs of the community are not always static,” says Tori Baker, Executive Director of the Salt Lake Film Society, a non-profit organization that runs The Tower Theater and Broadway Center Cinemas. “It falls on our responsibility to set the tone of the exhibit…once the tone has been set, it’s the responsibility of the patron to be a good citizen for the artist who’s worked hard to present that art form to them.”
At first, I had thought this topic had to do with how theaters enforce the rules and how they’ve, overtime, slowly become more lax. However, it was as I was looking around at the decor and layout of the Broadway Center Cinemas, located in downtown Salt Lake City, that I noticed an overall difference in presentation and emotion. This is not a theater like the Megaplexes or the Cinemarks, designed simply to rake in the ever-inflating box office dollars.
“The Broadway and the Tower…[are] really the museum of cinema for the community,” Baker says. “We present what’s current…what’s historic…and what’s in the zeitgeist of our community.”
The venues run by the Salt Lake Film Society exude an atmosphere that comes from a place of passion, a genuine love of the medium. Naturally, it’s the kind of place that attracts like-minded people who also enjoy the medium, and are the likely audience for independent films like “Chef,” “Belle,” and the soon to be released “Snowpiercer.”
Instant gratification and the “fast food” environment
Venues like the Megaplex on the other hand, exude a very different aura, one that is more business-focused. Yes, they exude a friendly atmosphere and luxurious amenities, but the feeling is more akin to going to a fast food restaurant.
I found myself asking this question as I left Broadway Center Cinemas: Is the problem of movie theater etiquette a result of the millennial tendency towards instant gratification and the perceived notions that etiquette itself is outdated, or is the problem a result of the larger scale theaters not properly setting the tone for any given showing?
Viewers need direction, too
“It’s perfectly acceptable during ‘The Princess Bride’ at midnight to shout out the lines,” Baker says. “Because we’ve set that tone. We don’t expect that to happen in the middle of ‘Nebraska’ or during a regular season program.”
It appears that film viewing, much like the medium itself, relies on the tone that is set at the beginning of the experience. If the tone isn’t set properly, or at all, the audience can become confused, resulting in a poor experience all around.
Check back next week as I explore the effects of both negative and positive movie-going experiences first-hand, as I take a second look at the film that started this weird little journey, “Belle.”