New Media Goes to the Movies: Digitizing the Theatrical Audience

Blake Hallinan*, C. J. Reynolds

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Movie theaters typically appear adjacent to discussions of new media. Although there has been work on digital cinema, we shift the focus from the digitization of the medium to the digitization of the theatrical audience and analyze the movie theater as new media. To do so, we look at the historical and contemporary strategies for digitizing the theatrical audience of a prominent theater chain. We identify common media of digitization, including credit cards, computerized point-of-sale systems, and loyalty programs. The origins of these techniques and imperatives trace back to the 1970s and 1980s, even as they take on new forms today. We then analyze the industrial logics of audience digitization and emergent communication and data collection methods. Finally, we analyze the movie theater as a platform, showing both the relevance of movie theaters and the challenges their inclusion as an object of study poses for contemporary platform studies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)379-399
Number of pages21
JournalTelevision and New Media
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • audience
  • media industries
  • movie theater
  • new media
  • platform
  • theatrical exhibition


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