Are there different types of film audience?

This includes various sub-questions, such as: (1) What are the characteristics of each film audience type? (2) What are the practices of the different types of film audiences? (3) Why do people decide to participate in each of these types? and (4) Why are there five types of film audiences?

There are five types of film audience (individualised, group, venue-specific, digital, and global), each of which holds a specific set of characteristics, and involves a particular set of practices and experiences:    

  • Individualised film audiences are characterised by people watching films on their own, either when alone or surrounded by others (e.g., watching at home when nobody else is in, or going to the cinema alone), and in particular practices such as seeking to minimise distraction from others and avoiding watching films in noisy environments. In terms of experience, individualised audiences involve a deeper level of immersion within film content than other audience types, often to learn about other people and/or places. Taking part in individualised audiences tends to gradually decrease over the lifecourse, with people in early adulthood (18-24) being 1.45 times more likely to have watched alone in the previous year than people aged in old age (+55).
  • Group film audiences are characterised by people sharing the experience of watching films together with other people, such as partners, friends, family members, housemates, course mates, or colleagues. Doing so often involves watching a film with films as part of a wider set of social activities, such as a day or night spent with friends. At home this can involve practices such as drawing curtains or eating fast-food to recreate the ambience of the cinema auditorium space or by leaving the space as it is – depending on the group watched with and the mood that is sought. At a cinema, it can include having drinks or a meal together before/after watching, discussion of the film amongst the group, and talking or laughing through the film as a particular set of shared viewing practices.  Although people take part in group audiences across the lifecourse, those in early adulthood and old age (18-24 and +55) are more likely to watch films with just their partner than people in early adulthood or midlife (aged 25-54), who instead tend to watch in larger groups composed of friends and/or family.
  • Venue-specific film audiences are characterised by people going to a particular cinema venue and feeling an affinity to the venue as a specific place – and/or towards the other people who go there. It often relies on trust being placed within that particular venue’s programming of films, and the film tastes of other people who watch films there. People who take part in this audience type often attend special events, such as directorial presentations, talks, and questions and answer sessions at their preferred venue as a practice that builds a sustains their sense of community. In terms of their socio-cultural profile, a broad range of people take part in venue-specific audiences, although it is slightly more common in later midlife (55-64), and with women are 1.5 times more likely than men to find a particular venue to be central to their experience of film.
  • Digital film audiences are characterised by people watching films and/or discussing film online, either when at home, when out and about, such as watching during moments of boredom at work, or when travelling on a bus or train. This involves practices of downloading or streaming particular films, as well as engaging with and contributing towards digital metrics and social media discussion surrounding films. They often watch via a video-on-demand service whilst being unaware of other people beyond a set of digital metrics, whilst discussion of films often takes place via social media, albeit typically amongst known peers rather than with strangers. The audience type also tends to be more common amongst people under the age 35 (childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood) than in midlife or old age.
  • Global film audiences are characterised by a sense of oneness and unity amongst geographically dispersed people watching the same culturally, socially, and/or politically significant film in the same timeframe, often in the weeks or months surrounding its release. Here, watching the same film that everyone is talking about and/or being the first to watch a new release are important factors for this audience type. This often rests on practices of keeping up-to-date with upcoming and new films and reading or watching reviews about them, as well as engaging with wider social, cultural, and political debates. In terms of the composition, there is little difference in the socio-cultural profiles of the people who do and/or do not take part in global audiences beyond a very minor nuance where it shows as being is slightly more common amongst women than men.

The five audience types can be seen as discernible patterns in the way audiences engage with film in the Survey analysis data visualisation, for example by setting the rows field to Who did you watch a film with and the columns field to any other aspect, such as ‘Region’ – see here. Different aspects of each audience type can be explored further through the ontology, for example, the underlined items of text items above each refer to a particular entity, which in turn, provides access to relevant audience member interviews.