Merlynston Movie Theatre

Travelling to the cinema by foot across suburban Melbourne was a weekly rite of passage for my mother in the 1960’s. The journey from neighbouring Faulkner to the cinema in Merlynston was completed either alone or with more school aged friends. Seldom was there an adult on such adventures. The theatre in Merlynston was not exactly grand; in fact, it had taken liberty by using the word theatre, when it was indeed a small hall, lined with tattered seats completed by a projector clinging to the ceiling.

My mother was not alone in absconding from her parents for the afternoon, with the room filled with unaccompanied children. All had been loaded up with 10 shillings to cover entrance and enough sugar to give diabetes a head start. The ancient projector had to make it through the two films to be shown during each Saturday’s matinee session.  This was never a guarantee and should the equipment wane the unruly mob would stamp their feet in unison, causing the old building to shake as well as voicing their displeasure. After one particularly boisterous screening my mother came home to find a wad of chewing gum in her coat, providing a permanent reminder of the mayhem experience at the Merlynston movie theatre.

While quantitative research would discover the number of audience members present at a particular film, it fails to note any qualitative impact of the film on the audience. In this case we know that the audience was largely made up of children, who in many cases were paying scant regard to the movie in front of them. This creates a situation whereby the number of individuals in the audience differs from what one may call the receptive audience. This has consequences for advertisers that have an interest knowing how many people will see their advertisement shown before, during or after the movie.

The number of people watching a movie and their demographics are vital to advertisers in determining which products to promote and how much a particular ad spot is worth. The stories my mother tells of visiting the cinemas provides a great example of a particular audience. In such a scenario the advertiser has an audience that is in equal parts likely to be receptive to being sold something as a non-discerning customer, yet also highly likely to completely ignore an advertisement placed in front of them.

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