Movie-goers feel the films

March 4, 2005

Whether they are shocked, horrified or disgusted, cinema audiences do not simply "watch" films, they "feel" them, according to research.

A study by academics at Stirling and Napier universities has found that cinema audiences become so engrossed in films that they are no longer simply following a plot but are physically affected by what they see and hear.

Peter Gray of Stirling's Institute of Education said: "Thrill or horror, revulsion or tension is all about effects on the body. People don't just go in and think about the plot. It's also about what they feel sitting there, and the fact that the screen is bigger than they are is important."

Another crucial factor was that cinema audiences were able to sit and concentrate rather than watching television with all the attendant distractions in the home, Mr Gray said.

The research was due to be presented this week to the conference Not Gazing but Watching: The Enigma of the Film Audience , which marks the 75th anniversary of the Edinburgh Film Guild. The guild is believed to be the oldest cinema society in the UK.

The research into the viewing behaviour of Edinburgh Film Guild audiences also found that, despite perceptions that they were cinema snobs, guild audiences felt as at home in a modern multiplex as a independent arthouse film theatre, apart, that is, from distractions such as the rustling of sweet packets.

Mr Gray said: "There's a wide range of tastes. They're not fixated on any particular genre, and don't watch a restricted range of films in one particular place. Some like the projection noise and clicks, others want state-of-the-art Dolby digital.

"They just felt audiences in multiplexes weren't as respectful of films as they should be."

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