Watching a Film With Others. Towards a Theory of Collective Spectatorship

In: Screen. Vol. 55, Issue 3, 2014.

In this essay I suggest that collectively watching a film with quiet attention should be considered a kind of joint action. When silently watching a film in a cinema the viewers are not merely engaged in individual actions – watching a film with others often implies a shared activity based on a collective intention in which the viewers jointly attend to a single object: the film. Drawing on recent debates about collective intentionality and shared feelings in analytic philosophy and phenomenology, I show that this import of social philosophy can have important ramifications for film theory and history. Proponents of diverse film theoretical approaches like cultural studies, cognitive film theory, film phenomenology or reception aesthetics consider the viewer actively involved with the film. If this is true and the spectators are all active, sitting in the same movie theatre watching the same film in a quiet, attentive way, it seems reasonable to argue that in some important sense they act jointly. My argument will serve as a step towards a more comprehensive theory and phenomenology of collective spectatorship at the movies, an aspect undervalued in the history of film theory.

Download the pre-print version here.

Link to official website:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *