How the Movie Going Experience Has Changed with Social Media

Whether it’s tweeting about the movie you’re about to see, asking Facebook friends for specific theater recommendations, or telling Google Plus followers about your latest film experience, social media has become an important part of the movie going experience. Things aren’t like they used to be, and going to the movies has evolved slowly with the growth of social media.

Admittedly, the Internet has always been a part of my life, and for the most part, so has social media, so it isn’t as easy for me to see this gradual evolution. First I was using AIM Instant Messages. I can remember coming home from school and spending hours sending messages to my friends. Then it was Myspace. Again, I spent hours and hours surfing the site. Now it’s Facebook and Twitter, and yes, even Google Plus, which is definitely on the rise. Take note. Either way, my point remains the same. I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t using social media, That said, even I can see many of the ways it’s slowly affecting the film industry, and on a larger scale, the movie going experience as a whole.

Before I talk about too much, let’s look at some numbers: In a survey on TODAY.com, Ninety-seven percent of the 28,000 who voted in said that cell phone use in theaters should “never be allowed — watch the movie instead!” However, more than 30 percent admitted to occasionally using their own phones in theaters. So, what does this mean? I guess it means that by nature, people are kind of hypocritical, but I think we all knew that already. It also means that social media updates and cell phone communications have both definitely found their way into movie theaters. Again, this isn’t exactly new information, but it’s useful to have some solid confirmation.

According to an article on deadline.com (http://www.deadline.com/2012/04/is-it-time-to-let-movie-goers-send-texts-during-a-film-cinemacon/), some movie theaters are discussing the prospect of openly allowing moviegoers to text during movies. In theory, people at these theaters believe that this could help draw younger audiences to their businesses. If that isn’t proof that social media is affecting the movie business and potentially massively affecting the movie going experience as a whole, then I don’t know what is.

Sharing the Experience: One of the biggest ways that social media has changed the movie going experience already also appears to be one of the most subtle. In the past, seeing a movie could be a fairly solitary action. Even if you were going with friends, going to see a movie in the theater meant that you would be cut off from the rest of the world for a while. In the dark. Out of touch. Completely lost in the world of the film from beginning to end. It was a true escape. Now, thanks to social media, if you don’t want to fully escape, you don’t have to. First, you can let everyone know about your plan to see a film. With a quick tweet or status, you can ask all of you friends and followers what you should see, why you should see it, and even where you should go. Instead of making your own judgments regarding what looks good and what doesn’t, you can ask others with the click of a button. After the film, you can discuss every detail with others who have seen the film. You can tweet your thoughts to the world, rant in a status, or just read about what others have to say. It doesn’t have to be solitary at all.

Creating a Buzz: In a past article that I wrote (http://wojdylosocialmedia.com/social-media-changed-tv-movie-consumption/), I discussed the way that social media can create a buzz that pushes people to watch certain movies and television shows. Positive buzz surrounding a film can inspire people to go see it when they otherwise wouldn’t, but just like social media can help a show or movie, it can easily hurt it. I talked about how nearly every show on TV is shown with a suggested hashtag at the bottom of the screen. This is also true for movies. While the hashtag craze hasn’t moved into the actual films (yet?!), almost every trailer shown before the film features a suggested hashtag. This encourages people to talk about what they’re seeing and strengthen that buzz even more. I used “The Lone Ranger” as an example in my last article, and unfortunately, I need only change the film name to use a similar example because dear old Johnny Depp has made another film that currently has an immense amount of negative buzz surrounding it: “Transcendence.” I was honestly so pumped about “Transcendence” before this weekend, but the reviews coming out on Twitter now are so overwhelmingly negative that I’m not sure I can bring myself to pay to see this movie. It’s a bummer for “Transcendence’s” marketing campaign because I’m basing the decision not to see it in theaters entirely on short reviews that I’ve seen on social media. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Quick Reviews: Speaking of quick reviews, social media has changed the review game as much as it has changed the movie going experience. Along with general reactions and spoilers, social media sites also provide an outlet for quick, easy-to-digest reviews. After seeing a film, I know that the first thing I do is take a moment to compose my thoughts, and then reach for my phone so that I can tweet and share those thoughts with the world. These tweets are always some of my most popular. Mostly, my tweets featuring mini movie reviews are heavily favorited. I can’t be sure, but my theory is that people trust these instant reviews and, to some extent, rely on them when choosing what they want to watch next. I know that I do that with some of the people I follow.

More Freelance Opportunity: Social media doesn’t just help people share their opinions. It also helps them find a legitimate, respected place for those opinions. Social media has opened up a world of opportunities for aspiring critics. I know about this one from experience. With social media, anyone can create a blog, write a number of movie reviews, and share those reviews with the world. With enough work, it isn’t hard to build a substantial following and earn credibility as a critic. Before social media, this process would’ve been incredibly different, and I think it would have been much harder. This is one thing that social media has certainly done for the better. These days, reviewing films is just about anyone’s game, thanks to the simplicity of sharing on social media.

Online Options: With the increase of social media has come the increase in online options for the movie going experience. With websites like Fandango, nearly everything about the classic theater experience can be done from home. You can buy your movie ticket and skip the lines. You can use a perks card to get rewards when buying concessions. You can even check online to see if a film is suitable for children using specific review websites. Everything is online now, and if you want to drastically warp your movie going experience using the Internet, it isn’t hard to do.

Rotten Tomatoes: Though there are countless online movie review websites, the most notable in terms of social media influence and probably just general influence as well is RottenTomatoes.com. If you aren’t familiar with the site, don’t fret. It’s incredibly simple. Critics and general moviegoers alike rate movies on a percentage scale. Here’s how the grading scale works, according to the guidelines on Rotten Tomatoes. “Rotten Tomatoes awards the Certified Fresh accolade to theatrical releases reviewed by 40 or more critics (including 5 Top Critics) with a steady score of 75% or higher on the Tomatometer. A film remains Certified Fresh unless its Tomatometer falls below 70%.”

It’s simpler than it sounds. If a movie gets good reviews, it’s slapped with a certified fresh sticker. If not, it gets a rotten one. By using a system of short, sweet, and definitive reviews, Rotten Tomatoes has figured out how to appeal to the masses on the Internet better than any other review site out there. I can’t speak for everyone, but there is no doubt that Rotten Tomatoes has changed the way I see movies. If I’m on the fence about seeing something, I check Rotten Tomatoes on my phone to see if the film has been certified fresh or not. Often, Rotten Tomatoes is the deciding factor in what I’ll pay to see.

What’s Next?: The use of social media doesn’t seem to be slowing. If anything, more people are turning to online options and quick reviews. So, what now? How much more can things evolve? Will there come a day when every theater allows texting or tweeting? When hashtags are shown during a film instead of just during the trailers?

My Predictions for the Future: No, I don’t think there will come a day when we openly use phones in the theater. Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part because I proudly and openly hate when people text during a movie, but I like to think that some things won’t change. Sure, the format of reviews is different, and sure, suggested hashtags are plastered over everything, but I like to think that the theater itself will remain a relatively sacred place. As for the moments directly before and after a film? Social media has already successfully invaded them, and it’s only a matter of time before someone creates an app or website that lets people share their movie going experience in an even more effective way than they do now. I imagine social media will only grow and evolve, and with it, so will the movie going experience. But for all of our sake, I hope it doesn’t change too drastically.

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