Cinematic Sensorium: Beyond the Visual
This paper will examine the cinematic sensorium. Drawing on ethnographic research at single-screen cinema halls in urban India as well as historical studies of moviegoing, it addresses the question: how does sensory and embodied experience organize the lived experience of the cinema? Rather than being a simple matter of providing a standardized and predictable space for viewing films, I argue that the sensualities of the cinema are continually produced and negotiated by a range of actors including exhibitors, theater staff, audiences and others. Sensory experiences may provide distraction and surprise; they may connect the audience to place and environment in a way that detracts from the film, yet shapes the cinema experience. As the cinema is a space where people from various walks of life come together, where strangers encounter one another and where bodies are in close proximity, sensory experience becomes central to understandings of the cinema as public space and to notions of order, even of a moral order that shapes belonging and exclusion. A holistic understanding of cinema experience is impossible without attention to its sensualities.