In preparation for the 2012 MTV Movie Awards, we at MTV Insights have been conducting research to understand this generation’s unique relationship with movies — what movies mean to Millennials, what draws Millennials to the theater, and what constitutes the “magic of movies” for this generation. In this first in a series of posts on our findings, we share a key insight about the theater experience.Having grown up in a world where so much of their social interaction is filtered through digital technology, Millennials are exhibiting an intensified craving for communal experiences that take place in the real world. From Coachella to Occupy Wall Street, we see Millennials seeking to reconnect with each other around real-life “watering holes.” This desire for real-world togetherness also seems to be part of a larger “early-onset nostalgia” among Millennials for a golden earlier time in their “youth” when their experience of the world was more physical, tangible, and less reliant on technology.
On the one hand, it’s about what you can’t do in a movie theater (no laptops, cell phones, tablets, etc.). It’s one of the few instances in Millennials’ constantly connected lives in which they are truly able to shut out the outside world and be fully present.
“To me, the magic of movies begins by being able to have those couple of hours to tune out all the commotion,” says Christina, 19.
More importantly, however, movie theaters offer a renewed sense of togetherness. Because Millennials have grown accustomed to so many solitary viewing experiences (thanks to an ever-growing number of personal viewing devices), the experience of watching a movie in a crowded theater has an exciting “communal happening” aspect. Case in point: the increasing popularity of midnight screenings. Formerly a niche ritual reserved for enthusiasts of cult classics like Rocky Horror, midnight screenings are now a mainstream Millennial phenomenon. High school and college students across the country gather to watch premieres of highly-anticipated movies at midnight “rituals,” turning a mere movie-outing into a full-on event, which requires hardcore prep work. Those Harry Potter costumes and Team Jacob/Team Edward T-shirts don’t make themselves!
The way in which Millennials describe the rowdy energy and experience of these midnight screenings is perhaps reminiscent of how Gen X’ers would have described a rock concert, with stories of the crying, screaming, cheering masses, decked out in full fan gear. “It’s the type of fandom that really brings people together,” says Lindsay, 21.
Interestingly, having instant-access to so much content on so many platforms and devices has actually made the theater experience even more sacred for Millennials. As Katherine, 21, puts it, “Watching movies in a theater binds us all together, even if only for 90 minutes.”