BCM240 Week 5: Cinema 5


The cinema can be a strange location. It’s one where we go to enjoy movies either alone or with people we know, and yet those clearly aren’t the only people there. The cinema only works as a business because it can cater to dozens or hundreds at once. It works for the big screen, the big sound, the smells (popcorn!). It works because we ignore (or perhaps relish) the others around us.

Questions to consider

  • What do you like or not about going to the movies?
  • Is the cinema a private or a public space?
  • Why do we go to enjoy a movie quietly with a big room full of other people?
  • Are certain cinemas more special than others?
  • Is the cinema just another way of being ‘alone together’?

Although you might not realise it, there are many things that constrain your movement through the world, and only some of these are physical. Torsten Hagerstrand identified three constraints:

  • capability — what physically limits or enables you to access certain locations. These include biological abilities and physical barriers.
  • coupling — do you need to be in proximity to others? With whom? For how long? Think workplaces, carpooling, and public transport.
  • authority — do you have the right to access a space or is there some restriction?

Activity: Share with a partner a story about going to the cinema, and consider this in terms of Hagerstrand’s constraints.

Daily movement is now often subject to surveillance. See this investigative piece which explores ABC reporter Will Ockenden’s movements and communications. How does this influence, reproduce or change constraints? If you use Google/Android devices and services, you can download and play with your own location history data by visiting https://www.google.com.au/maps/timeline. There is a link to download it as a KML file which can be used in mapping software such as Google Earth to visualise your own time-space routines.

The geographer David Seamon also has much to add to thinking about movement, access and constraint. In A Geography of the Lifeworld, Seamon argues that the “interaction of many time-space routines and body ballets [daily behaviours] rooted in space… fosters a strong, even profound sense of place”.


All of this should play into your thinking about the cinema as a place that requires complex planning to attend, even if it feels absolutely mundane, and is a business therefore at risk from services like Netflix, enabled by networks like the NBN, which promise and promote convenient and on-demand access to the same content. Work that through in your blogs this week. You have three options:

  • Option 1: Plan and undertake a movie visit and write about this referencing Hagerstrand’s three constraints
  • Option 2: If you can’t get to the movies, explain what made this difficult, referencing Hagerstrand’s three constraints
  • Option 3: Return to the person you’ve been working with in previous blog tasks and ask them to tell you a story of their early movie-going, looking for evidence of Hagerstrand’s three constraints in their story

In whichever you choose, there are lots of questions to consider (see Kate’s slides). Always link what you observe with evidence you can find elsewhere.

5 thoughts on “BCM240 Week 5: Cinema

  1. Kate Bowles Aug 25,2015 2:33 pm

    Hey Travis

    I’m really captured by your idea of “strange space”, and it’s got me thinking about cinemas as kinds of haunted spaces. Not just abandoned cinemas, of which there are plenty, but cinemas in general.

    What do you think makes cinemas “strange”? Are there other kinds of strange spaces, strange in this same way?

    • travisaholland Aug 25,2015 2:44 pm

      You’ve seen more in it than I meant!

      I was playing on your phrasing of ‘strangers in public’, but I think they’re odd in that we often go to the cinema to do something that seems private – watching in silence, taking it in for ourselves – but alongside dozens or hundreds of others. They’re paradoxical spaces in that sense. Though of course, many cinema audiences don’t necessarily conform to this, think cult movies like Rocky Horror or children’s movies.

      I think old cinemas, in particular, have a sense of haunting about them. They contain the stories of social histories gone by.

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