26 April 2018, 17:00
Since the inception of Secret Cinema in 2007, immersive film events have become an increasingly popular form of entertainment in the UK, often attracting a diverse, intergenerational range of participants. From early-adopter urban hipsters to DIY rural communities, the growing demand for experiential media can be understood within wider discussions circulating around audience mobility, the de-centring of the film text and what has been described as a “post-moviegoing age” (Allen, 2011). However, as with studies of film audiences more broadly, recent empirical work on immersive cinema has been predominantly focused on metropolitan film-going cultures and practices. From analyses of the ambitious productions of Secret Cinema (Atkinson and Kennedy 2015, 2016; Pett, 2016) to investigations of more exclusive cult screenings at cinemas such as the Prince Charles in London (Crisp and McCulloch, 2016), these studies have explored issues such as production design, branding, and shifting forms of subcultural capital. Furthermore, audience research conducted in this area rarely offers a broader perspective on the experience economy; instead, studies tend to focus on specific productions or locations, such as those offered in Atkinson and Kennedy’s forthcoming edited collection on Live Cinema (2017). Drawing on a range of sources, including qualitative audience data, industry reports and newspaper articles, this paper investigates the expanding experience economy within the UK and maps out the diverse and often contradictory characteristics of the participants it attracts. Using original empirical data gathered across a four year period, I examine the ways in which immersive and participatory cinema has intersected with many of the distinctive characteristics more commonly associated with rural cinema-going, such as resourcefulness, cooperation and an anti-commercial sentiment (Aveyard, 2015).
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