The Cinema of Attraction: Bringing Audience Back to Movie Theater

In Tom Gunning’s “The Cinema of Attraction: Early Film, Its Spectator, and the Avant-Garde“, ‘the cinema of attraction’ is able to be understood as an ‘exhibitionist cinema’, which focus on its exhibitionist nature rather than story and narrative. In other words, the image itself plays a more important role than narrative. Consequently,  the enjoyment that audience get from the screening is mainly provided from “an exciting spectacle-a unique event, whether fictional or documentary, that is of interest in itself” (Strauven, 2006, p384).Cinema of Attraction aims to build a communication with spectators by creating a pure visual impact. As Gunning points out “It is the direct address of the audience, in which an attraction is offered to the spectator by a cinema showman, that defines this approach to filmmaking”(1990, p58). In today’s world, the popularity of home-viewing and the Internet changes the function of the movie theater. Tom’s idea of the pure attraction of film can be used to bring audiences back to the movie theater.

Opening Scene of the Gravity (2013)


A large number of narrative films begin to use different kinds of special effects in order to emphasize the meaning of ‘attraction’. The Gravity (2013) illustrates this point clearly. The first shot of this film is a 17-minute long take that shows the scene of outer space. Rather than introduce the story and protagonist, the film leads spectator to experience a real space-travel at the beginning. At the same time, such a long take also contribute to the narrative because it not only presents the backgrounds of the story but also shows the mystery of space.As Tom Gunning points out that “In fact the cinema of attractions does not disappear with the dominance of narrative, but rather goes underground, both into certain avant-garde practices and as a component of narrative films” (1990).Technology makes it possible to combine attraction and narrative together so that provides an “in-film” experience which can not be achieved at home.

Grace Hu


Tom Gunning (1990). “The Cinema of Attraction: Early Film, Its Spectator, and the Avant-Garde” in Thomas Elsaesser (ed), Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, London: BFI

Strauven, A. (2007) The cinema of attractions reloaded (film culture in transition). Edited by Wanda Strauven. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Univ Pr, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

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