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Why we're so excited to be back at the cinema, according to scientists

Silver screens across the UK are open for viewing again as of today.

Going to the cinema was the fourth most missed activity during the pandemic last year, after seeing friends and family, going to restaurants and pubs, and going on holidays.

Netflix - and other streaming services - have saved us throughout, but Showcase Cinemas says that the big screen experiences is scientifically more exciting than watching movies on TV.

If you're feeling excited today about getting back out there and into the comfy recliners of Leicester's Showcase Cinema de Lux, here's exactly why.

Scientists employed TV star Keith Lemon, a self-confessed movie aficionado, as a test subject and used state-of-the-art scientific monitoring equipment to measure his excitement levels when watching a film on the cinema big screen versus watching the same movie on a TV screen.

The team of scientists were from the University of East Anglia and commissioned by nationwide cinema chain Showcase Cinemas. They conducted the biometric study to test how watching movies on the two mediums compared.

The in-depth study, carried out at Showcase Cinema de Lux Bluewater in Kent, concluded that not only do film fans find movies more exciting when watched on a large cinema screen but that those audiences are also less distracted and pay more attention to the movie when inside a cinema.

Dr Samuel Forbes, who led the University of East Anglia scientific team, said: “Through assessing Keith’s reactions in two conditions using eye-tracking, ECG and emotional coding, our observations were overall consistent with greater engagement and physiological reactivity when a film was viewed in a cinema than on a TV in a lounge.

“The observations made during this demonstration indicate that people find watching a film in a cinema more engaging than on a TV.”

Keith Lemon was wired up and tested while watching the same film in both a Showcase cinema and in a living room TV set up on a 40” screen.

The TV presenter wore special eye-tracking glasses to record where he was looking during the whole experiment, plus a wireless electrocardiogram (ECG) to measure heart rate variability.

A video camera was also set up facing Keith to record his reactions, and his facial expressions were monitored using a special coding system which detects even the tiniest changes.

In the cinema, Keith’s heart rate was much more variable throughout the movie, illustrating that his excitement levels were far higher. The number of beats per minute fluctuated more strongly and frequently than when watching the same movie on TV, where his heart rate remained more stable and did not appear to change much in response to events in the film.

The result was a significantly greater variability in heart rate in the cinema (9.5) versus watching the movie on the TV set (2.7).

With movie releases like Godzilla vs Kong, Peter Rabbit 2, Those Who Wish Me Dead, and Raya & the Last Dragon available from today, there's lots to be excited about.


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