Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies


Special themed issue – Inside-the-scenes: The rise of experiential cinema

Guest Editors: Sarah Atkinson and Helen W. Kennedy, University of Brighton

In recent years, there has been a growing trend toward the creation of a cinema that escapes beyond the boundaries of the auditorium whereby film-screenings are augmented by synchronous live performance, site-specific locations, technological intervention[1], social media engagement, and all manner of simultaneous interactive moments including singing[2], dancing, eating, drinking[3] and smelling[4].  Whilst recognizing that these experiences are not radically new (some belong in a continuum of peripheral marketing around film screenings that have existed since early cinema) we do now see these previously marginal experiences (i.e.  The Rocky Horror Picture Show) beginning to find access to a much wider public, and a significant rise in organisations dedicated to the design and delivery of augmented cinematic main events (such as Secret Cinema[5] and Sneaky Experience). We would like to make the distinction between the focus of this CFP – which is directed toward the study of ‘event-led’ cinema – the creation of live events around a particular film screening, and its contrasting proposition – ‘event cinema’ – thecoverage of live events in cinema auditoriums (such as sport, opera and theatre – around which there is already much lively academic discussion, and an organization established to support such activities[6]). This CFP is situated with the context of a growing demand for atmospheric, immersive and participatory cinematic experiences and the recent turn towards event-led distribution models, within a burgeoning experience economy. This area presents a fertile site for analysis and one that remains relatively untapped within past and current academic literature. This special issue aims to bring together the latest audience research into these areas to interrogate and explore the experiential cinema economy and to provide deepened understandings of recent immersive cinema phenomena through the analysis of both industrial and audience perspectives; to reveal economic, social and technological imperatives which underpin these innovations; and to evolve new conceptual frameworks and language of analyses suitable for their study.

The editors are particularly interested in encouraging submissions from a range of research contexts and from a diversity of methodological approaches. We are happy to receive submissions from a variety of disciplines such as film, media, games, theatre & social media studies. We are keen to encourage submissions from work that has combined multiple methodologies leading to innovations in audience research. Contributions will be welcomed, but are not limited to, articles addressing the following questions or areas of enquiry:

·      To what extent do these experiences extend and intensify narrative affect, heighten spectatorial absorption and enable vicarious audience engagement?

·      How are non-fictional augmentations such as cast and crew satellite link-ups to Q&A staged in order to engage an audience with a greater expectations of interactivity?

·      What new business models are emerging? At recent film festival events, industry talk and focus has turned to ‘eventising’. This is high on the agenda of an industry seeking to evolve new business models which address an apparent audience demand for enhanced and/or augmented experiences.  

·      How do such experiences embrace or challenge existing fan practices including cosplay?

·      How are the relations and tensions between the experience economy and the social media economy played out within these experiences?  (i.e. participation in events engendered by the experience economy  provide audience members who are engaged in the social media economy with the fodder with which to sustain their voracious social media streams)

·      How far can these augmented cinematic events be understood with recourse to a wider understanding of a shift in focus towards the design of experiences and multiple points of access around key (and often much loved) intellectual properties?

·      Where do the boundaries of the filmic-text, traditionally the key site for analysis in film studies, begin and end within immersive and participatory cinema experiences?

While we expect that not every submission will include any specific kind of audience research, we would welcome submissions that address the implications their investigations and arguments have for audience experience.

Please submit 500-word abstracts along with 100-word author biographies to both :

Sarah Atkinson: Helen Kennedy:

·      Deadline for abstracts: Tuesday 5thMay, 2015

·      Decisions issued to authors: w/b 1st June, 2015

·      Deadline for full papers: Tuesday 1st September, 2015

·      Journal publication: May 2016

Please see journal information including submission guidelines at:

[1] The first 4DX cinema opened in the UK earlier this year in Milton Keynes, UK.

[2] See

[3] Last year, Edible Cinema delivered a screening of Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, using ‘taste, aroma and texture to heighten the viewers’ sensory experience of the film’s most famous scenes.’

[4] Polyester, the 1981 John Waters film was recently re-screened at 35 UK cinemas, in the way that it was originally intended, accompanied by audience interaction with the Odorama ‘Scratch n’ Sniff’ cards, as part of the National Scalarama film festival.

[5] The editors have themselves carried out extensive analyses of Secret Cinema, see bothAtkinson, S. and Kennedy, H. (2015):

–        Tell no one: Cinema as game-space – Audience participation, performance and play, G|A|M|E: The Italian Journal of Game Studies, 5/2015

–        Not so secret cinema: when independent immersive cinematic events go mainstream, SCMS conference, Montreal, March 2015

[6] The Event Cinema Association seeks to support and promote event cinema – see


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