Digitally present: “Watchalongs” and digital collective film audience experiences

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Measures to control the spread of Covid-19 have had a far-reaching impact on established models of film distribution and exhibition, significantly contributing to an acceleration of existing trends around the online delivery and consumption of film. This acceleration has made visible further nuances in existing patterns of film audience experience as identified by Hanchard, Merrington and Wessels (2020). Combining elements of what they term “group film audience experiences” and “digital film audience experiences”, the “watchalong” – in which viewers watch films at home simultaneously with other physically remote co-viewers – grew in popularity alongside nationwide stay-at-home orders in the UK throughout 2020 and 2021. Replicating some of the scheduled, event-like quality and shared, collective experience of the in-person film screening, this paper argues that the watchalong serves as a noteworthy example of a contemporary film audience experience that highlights the flexibility of the patterns identified by Hanchard et al., as well as providing a suggestive case study with which to expand Hanich’s (2018) work on “the audience effect” beyond the physical space of the cinema auditorium.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Formation of Film Audiences
Subtitle of host publicationConference Proceedings
EditorsLito Tsitsou, Helen Rana, Bridgette Wessels
PublisherThe Digital Humanities Institute
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • film exhibition
  • audiences
  • cinema
  • digital cultures


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