Asking my mother to recall her first cinema experience brought on a whole heap of nostalgic joy, it also made me ponder on social and economic geography professor, Torsten Hägerstrand’s studies on human behaviour- how we inhibit space in relation to time.
On the 16th December 1976, The Hoyts Entertainment Centre opened on 505-525 George Street Sydney. The centre was a seven screen cinema complex and an iconic venue for many to enjoy film screenings for decades. According to my mother, it was an overwhelmingly large building for a 12-year-old.
When asked what the very first movie she remembered seeing was, it didn’t take much time or thought to recall watching Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007, “For Your Eyes Only”, starring Roger Moore. The film was released in Australia on the 19th November 1981, making my mum 12 years old at the time. Accompanied by her mother (my grandmother) and brother (my uncle) , she was treated to having her very first cinematic experience during the school holidays in 81’.
To get to the cinema, my grandmother, uncle and mother had to get a 30-40min train, a.k.a the “Red Rattler” from Dulwich Hill to Town Hall. Interestingly mum remembered distinctly going to the movies on a Tuesday of the school holidays as this was when tickets were half price or as she explained “tight-arse-Tuesdays”.
When arriving at the cinema the very first observation which was of prominent detail was the luxurious feel stepping into the entertainment centre had. “Fancy” royal red carpet filled the floor and followed up the stairs.
“I had this feeling as if I was somewhere special.”
Usher’s dressed in bow ties, checked tickets at the doors but mum does vaguely remember being able to pick her own seat. Sat on each side of my grandmother, both my uncle and mother were in awe of the size of the cinema screen and the loudness of the amplified sound of the film, James Bond being an action film this was amplified even greater.
Although not much detail of the actual film was remembered, I found my mother constantly drawing back to emphasis of how large the space was, and that this was quite confronting for an already introverted 12yr old. This made her socially constrained to stay quiet, being overwhelmed with the amount of people in the space.
Torsten Hägerstrand’s ideologies on time geography changed the way we understand how individuals inhibit space in relation to time. He identified three categories of limitations, or “constraints” in the space time path; capability, coupling, and authority. To wrap my head around these concepts I’ve applied them to how they play a role in my mother’s first cinema experience.
Capability constraints, the limits on human movement due to physical or biological factors can be related to my mother’s travel time and trip to getting to and from the cinema, taking the 30-40-minute train from Dulwich Hill to Town Hall and planning around this time schedule.
Coupling constraints, the restrictions on the autonomous allocation of time due to the need to coordinate with institutional logistics or interactions with other individuals can be related through the arrangement made to go to the movies during the school holidays, a weekday where not only do they have the free time but also get half price tickets
Authority constraints, the limits on when activities can or cannot take place, or where they must or must not be located, imposed by external parties which can be related to the usher’s checking tickets before entry.
Listening to my mother recall her experience was exciting for the both of us and being able to relate it back to Hägerstrand’s ideas on time geography was quite fascinating and made his ideologies a lot more comprehendible. Growing up in such a digital age I find we take for granted the access to technology we have which enables the limitations of space and time to be altered, hence why her experience with cinema was so interesting for me to listen to.
Corbett, J. (2001). Torsten Hägerstrand: Time Geography.. [online] Is.muni.cz. Available at: https://is.muni.cz/el/1431/jaro2006/Z0147/time_geography.pdf
En.wikipedia.org. (n.d.). New South Wales Standard suburban carriage stock. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_South_Wales_Standard_suburban_carriage_stock
In70mm.com. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://www.in70mm.com/library/70mm_in/australia/sydney/pdf/hoyts_entertainment_centre.pdf
Witheridge, G. (2015). Hagerstrand Not The Irrational Man: An analysis of why tumbleweeds have replaced jaffas rolling down cinema aisles. [online] Givernywitheridge.wordpress.com. Available at: https://givernywitheridge.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/hagerstrand-not-the-irrational-man-an-analysis-of-why-tumbleweeds-have-replaced-jaffas-rolling-down-cinema-aisles/