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Session 5: Approaches: Analyzing Audience Experiences

Paper 1 - Eduardo Pires, University of Greenwich, Beyond the Black Box: Approaching Audience Participation in Cinematic Experiences. .

When cinema flirts with other kinds of art, we experience unconventional types of screening. Some recent works such as ‘Carne y Arena (Virtually present, physically Invisible)’, by Alejandro González Iñárritu, address how virtual reality films and dramaturgy of space, both combined, may create a different type of screening room, resulting in a new sort of cinematic experience. Through an autoethnography approach, and based on concepts of performance and New Cinema History, this study seeks to describe how performance and cinema shape a new type of spectatorship. In ‘Carne y Arena’, before properly watching the film, the emancipated spectator enters the experience alone and explores the many spaces, thoroughly created, as in a performance where the audience, one by one, performs by and exclusively to themselves. The screening room is not a black box with a projector anymore, now it assumes a different shape, a different atmosphere, a space that can be occupied in different ways and demands different rules and behaviours from the active spectator. This paper is a provocation, a reflection regarding new models of screening rooms. I reflect on how artworks such as ‘Carne y Arena’ can be scaled by an industry that is accustomed to distribute, and now stream, its productions to as many people as possible. Is this format doomed to fail? Or is this just the beginning of a new phenomenon of screening that will prioritise the individual experience from now on?

Joseph Dunne & ZU-UK (2018) Good night, sleep tight (remix), International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, 14:2, 215-223.


Manovich, L. (2002). The Language of New Media. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Mateer, J. (2017). Directing for Cinematic Virtual Reality: how the traditional film director’s craft applies to immersive environments and notions of presence. Journal of Media Practice, 18, 14–25.

Rancière, Jacques. (2021). O espectador emancipado, São Paulo: WMF Martins Fontes.


Rose, Frank. (2012). The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories.


Van Der Beek, Stan. (1966). Film Culture, No. 40. Stan Van Der Beek Projects: Spring.

Eduardo Pires holds a Bachelor Degree in Communication Studies, a Postgraduate Diploma in Art History, and a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Performance from the University of East London. He has been granted the University of Greenwich Vice-Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which has given him the chance to research strategies through intimate, post-immersive and one-to-one performances that investigate narratives and guide future arts policy by encouraging participation and engagement from within a divided community. His research interests also include immersive theatre, audience participation, virtual reality, data-driven storytelling, alternate reality games, transmedia narrative, and participatory theatre.

Paper 2 - Eleonora Roaro, University of Udine, “Odeon VR”: Archival Research and VR Storytelling in the 3D Reconstruction of the Odeon Cinema, Udine.

The paper is about the project “Odeon VR” developed by Eleonora Roaro under the supervision of Andrea Mariani (Digital Storytelling Lab, Università degli Studi di Udine) and Virtew s.r.l.s. It focuses on the Virtual Reality reconstruction and reactivation of the Odeon cinema (1936-2002) in Udine and on how the research has been conducted in national and local archives (both public and private), newspapers (“Il Popolo del Friuli” and “Il Messaggero Veneto”), and through oral sources. The aim of the project is the development of Virtual Reality storytelling that combines local history, cinema history and cinema-going habits between 1936 and 1955. It highlights the new historiographical possibilities of the connection between archival work and immersive digital technologies, which allow us to integrate different and heterogeneous sources and to develop a historicized experience. Moreover, it is a case of digital heritage valorization [Cameron and Kenderdine 2007] conceived as a political concept and practice made through Virtual Reality: indeed the Odeon cinema was declared of historical and artistic interest in 2004 by the Soprintendenza Belle Arti, Archeologica e Paesaggio del Friuli Venezia Giulia because of Ettore Gilberti’s architectonic prestige and Ugo Rossi and Antonio Franzolini’s interior decorations. The building still exists nowadays, although in deteriorating conditions: it has been unsuccessfully put up for auction and, consequently, no restoration has occurred. The project aims to bring awareness of this cinema theatre’s uniqueness to the local community and its importance for the citizens as a place of social gathering.

Bucher, John. Storytelling for Virtual Reality: Methods and Principles for Crafting Immersive Narratives. New York: Routledge, 2018.

Cameron, F.; Kenderdine, S. (Eds.). Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage: A Critical Discourse. Cambridge MA: MIT Press: Cambridge, 2007.

Caneppele, Paolo. Metodologia della ricerca storiografica sul cinema in ambito locale, in Gian Piero Brunetta (a cura di) “Storia del cinema mondiale. Teorie, strumenti, memorie, vol. 5”. Torino: Einaudi, 2001.

Quargnolo, Mario. Quando i Friulani andavano al cinema. Pordenone: Edizioni biblioteca dell’immagine, 1989.

Eleonora Roaro (Varese, 1989) is a visual artist and researcher. She studied Photography (BA – IED, Milano), Visual Arts and Curatorial Studies (MA NABA, Milano) and Contemporary Art Practice (MA – Plymouth University). Currently, she is a research fellow at the University of Udine. She lives and works between Milano and Udine.

Paper 3 - Kata Szita, University of Gothenburg, New Cinema Future: The Collective Solitude of Spectatorship.

To achieve an increasingly immersive viewing experience and compensate for the drawbacks of various viewing environments (including unenclosed spaces and even the lack of fellow spectators), virtual reality film providers offer virtually created viewing environments for watching movies. The Oculus Cmoar VR Cinema application enables choosing from a variety of virtual screening locations, as a theatrical screening room, while Netflix VR provides a home cinema experience in a virtual living room, where ambient lights dim when the movie starts and turn back on when it ends or the screening is paused. Moreover, users can connect with other users to communicate and watch content together, in the same virtual environment, even if they are in different physical locations. These developments make using non space-bound, physically private, portable streaming platforms more like traditional and typically social cinematic and home video experiences. Virtual screening room applications run on pocket-sized portable devices and relocate large-screen viewing into the space of portable media, while blocking out the physical environment. This paper investigates the clash between the collective cinematic experience and the individual nature of post-cinematic viewing. Movie spectatorship is largely driven by social and cultural factors; by behavioral norms that appeared in relation to the cinematic apparatus and the simultaneous presence of dozens of spectators in one room. However, now, it is just as significantly based on personal viewing platforms, on which content presentation and content access are defined by the sole viewer’s momentary decisions. Whereas in cinema it is the viewers’ collective and social facilitation (“peer pressure”) that characterizes behavior, in the case of personal viewing, it is, instead, dominated by individual behavioral patterns. Yet, as the above examples also demonstrate, collective viewing appears as a point of reference, both in technological and behavioral terms.

Coëgnarts, M. (2017). Cinema and the embodied mind: Metaphor and simulation in understanding meaning in films. Palgrave Communications, 3. http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/palcomms.2017.67

Grusin, R. (2016). DVDs, video games, and the cinema of interactions. In S. Denson & J. Leyda (Eds.), Post-cinema: Theorizing 21st-century film (Online ed., pp. 65–87). Falmer: Reframe Books.

Hanich, J. (2018). The audience effect: On the collective cinema experience. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Stiegler, B. (2009). The Carnival of the New Screen: From Hegemony to Isonomy. In P. Snickars & P. Vonderau (Eds.), The YouTube Reader (pp. 40-59). Stockholm: National Library of Sweden.

Kata Szita, PhD is a lecturer in film with an interest in neurocinematics, which she applies to post-cinematic spectatorship to investigate the spectator in relation to new screening technologies. Her recently published PhD thesis, Smartphone Cinematics: A Cognitive Study of Smartphone Spectatorship, discusses the psychological and technological mechanisms of spectatorship.