It turns out that the loneliness epidemic we hear so much about is worse among young people than the over 55s, who are traditionally the group most often seen as isolated. Can cinema provide some of the answers?
A recent survey of over 2000 people on cinema-going and loneliness in Britain has found that over 13% of society always feel isolated in their day to day life, with a further 59% saying they often do.
The research, which was instigated by the people behind the MyFilmClub app, found that 16-24 year olds made up nearly a quarter of this 13%, with 25-34 year olds making up the second highest proportion – yet only 5% of the over 55s did.
40% of 16-24 year olds admitted to finding that they struggle to find methods of socialising that appeal to them, compared to 13% of those aged 55+. How can getting people out to the cinema help?
Cinema – the benefits!
I love films and they can be genuinely life-saving, especially the safety video on British Airways, with Olivia Colman and Ian McKellen showing us what to do in an emergency.
But cinema going can also be a real lifeline for people – from simply making sure they get out of the house, to attending local festivals or special screenings with other genre fans, to meeting up with friends to see the latest blockbuster. And for people who find small talk terrifying, provide current subjects to talk about.
Patrick von Sychowski, Editor of cinema industry resource Celluloid Junkie told MyFilmClub: “cinemas play an increasingly important role in catering to marginalised and isolated communities, whether special screenings for mothers with babies, films subtitled in immigrants’ native languages, subtitled film for hearing impaired, or autism and dementia friendly screenings.”
Even in the dark it can be a sociable experience, bringing people together (no, I don’t mean that). We tend to laugh more if we are in the presence of other people, which makes watching a comedy, or even a really terrible film that has accidentally turned into a comedy, more of a fun experience.
Going to the cinema alone
Three in five Brits say they are more likely to attend the cinema if they were with friends or a group than alone, with a split of 65% women to 54% men.
I love going to the cinema alone, though I think it’s important to ask why people don’t do it more. Sometimes friends can be openly critical, which is crushing if you’re just plucking up courage to go on your own for the first time. But there are other reasons too. As a woman, watching a film in an empty cinema is pure bliss. Having one man come in and sit almost next to me is not. (You think they don’t do this? Ha!)
I’ve certainly never felt nervous in my little local cinema, where if I come out of one of the screens I’m about 10 feet away from the popcorn, coffee machine and several salespeople. It’s not always the same stuck in an isolated screen at the very far end of a multiplex and we need to address how safe people feel if we want more of them to venture out.
The upsides are seeing films you like at a time of your choosing, perhaps at cheaper times, without having to find likeminded friends to come with you, or worry about asking people to come with you if you find that tricky.
Getting people back into cinemas
What is putting people off the cinema? A quarter of respondents said they feel lazier than before (kudos for that honesty), with a further 23% not liking the stress of being around people in a confined environment.
To draw people back, what people want most is off-peak pricing and regular discounting, followed by cheaper concessions and a wider variety of films.
I’m not entirely sure how likely we are to get cheaper films AND cheaper snacks though, bearing in mind the food may well be subsidising the ticket prices already.
Still, there are already ways you can cut the cost of your cinema trip. If you can get to the cinema away from peak hours, check out their cheaper times or days. Also if you need an impetus to keep going, consider joining a cinema membership scheme – some of them give you free tickets, the option to go to other free screenings, and discounts.
You could also check out MyFilmClub, an app designed to smooth over the cinema-going process and encourage film communities. (Come on, you can’t expect them not to plug their own app when they paid for the survey!) It provides a platform that encourages face to face interactions by generating ready-made communities of film lovers.
Within MyFilmClub, cinemas can also create their own clubs, providing customers with news of special screenings as part of their own network of communications.
Local people can connect in chat rooms that they have either joined or created, called clubs. Once you have chosen the film you wish to see, geotags pool the nearest cinemas that the film is showing in. Cinema options, film information and ticket purchasing links can be shared with other club members on your group chat.
You can download the MyFilmClub app free.