Saturday, March 31, 2007

At the Core of the Entertainment Industry

Following on from yesterday's post, here are some further definitions:

Entertainment Venue

'An area that is used primarily for an audience to be engaged or captivated, through sensory stimulation and / or emotion'.

Examples: Wembley Stadium, Leeds City Varieties, National Media Musuem.

Object of Entertainment

'An item that has been created primarily to engage or captivate an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion'

Examples: Museum exhibit, television programme, book.


'Somebody who has a talent, vocation, skill set, or ability that can engage or captivate an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion'

Examples: Singer, masseuse, actor.

Entertainment Tool

'An item that has the primary function of supporting an entertainer with engaging or captivating an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion'

Examples: Musical instrument, massage table, juggling balls.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Entertainment & Entertainmentnous: Exploring Concepts, to Define an Industry

The word ‘entertainment’ seemingly means different things to different people. All too often definitions of entertainment demonstrate both narrowness and ambiguity which really demonstrate what little understanding there is of the word, some highlighted examples include:

‘An event, performance, or activity designed to give pleasure or relaxation to an audience’ (Wikipedia, 2007).

This definition is both narrow and ambiguous. What is an event? A funeral, a birthday, a lunar eclipse – these are all events, and whilst some may be entertaining, they are not all entertainment. A staged event held for an audience certainly is entertainment. If performance is relating to performance art, then yes this is also entertainment, but activity is far too broad a word to be used in this context. This definition also states that entertainment gives ‘pleasure or relaxation’, which of course it doesn’t always. Pleasure suggests that entertainment makes people happy, and relaxation suggests that entertainment provides relief. A shower after exercise is an activity that gives pleasure, but this is not entertainment. A séance or tarot card reading often fails to give pleasure or relaxation, yet they are used to entertain an audience. Was the audience of television viewers watching BBC3s ‘Kill it, cook it and eat it’ pleasured or relaxed by this performance? Some might have been, but a number certainly were not.

‘An activity that is diverting and that holds the attention’ (Wordnet, 2007).

Wordnet’s definition is far too ambiguous, does entertainment have to involve activity by the person being entertained? Is watching a film at the cinema active or passive on behalf of the entertainee. Going by Wordnet’s definition, making and consuming a Pot Noodle could be entertainment – which it of course isn’t!

‘Something affording pleasure, diversion, or amusement’ (, 2007).’s definition is also far too ambiguous, chewing gum gives me pleasure, but it isn’t entertainment. However diversion is a correct choice of word to use in this definition as entertainment is intended to divert or captivate the attention of an audience, but the word amusement is unnecessary, and alludes to entertainment being what is traditionally known as ‘light entertainment’. Amusement may be a by product of an audience being captivated, e.g. a person on stage (an entertainer) addresses an audience by telling a story that has a humorous ending, this invokes laughter in some audience members, therefore they have been amused. However, If that same entertainer had told a story to the audience that did not have a humorous ending, the audience may still have been diverted or captivated, which would also constitute being entertainment. Whilst after dinner speakers often punctuate their stories with anecdotes, they are not always comedians, and many tell serious stories about their experiences to an audience of captivated listeners – which means that they are entertainers.

I would like to offer a definition of entertainment that is all-encompassing, that provides rationale for why something that is entertainment is entertaining. My definition is as follows:

‘Something which has the primary purpose of engaging or captivating an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion’.

In my definition an audience is as many as infinite, or as little as one. This makes the entertainment industry enormous, which covers a huge array of areas. These include entities that have traditionally been considered entertainment such as theatrical stage shows and live music, to things which many might not have always been considered as being within the entertainment industry such as city based observation towers, fairground rides, sculpture / statues, libraries, billboards and massage.

A clear line does need to be drawn however, as not everything that we find entertaining, constitutes being within the entertainment industry, in order to highlight this point I will use the example of train spotters. These are people who have an in-depth interest in railway trains and often gather at stations or by railway lines to watch trains pass by, sometimes recording the numbers on the side of locomotives and carriages. These people find trains very entertaining, but most trains are certainly not created for entertainment - this is down to the primary purpose of what trains are for, which is to transport people or freight from one location to another, rather than engaging or captivating an audience. That said, if a special train such as a vintage steam train was run, whilst it’s primary purpose of transporting people from one place to another cannot be denied, there could also be a secondary purpose of engaging an audience through the site, sounds and smell of the train which would give that type of train the right to claim that it is at least partially an object within the entertainment industry.

This is where my thoughts so far on entertainment as a concept (as well as an industry) have brought me. What I want to find is a word that describes on a sliding scale to what degree an entity falls within the entertainment industry, based upon the purpose of the entity. If the primary purpose of an entity is to engage or captivate an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion then to my mind that entity falls within the entertainment industry. If an entity has been created with another primary purpose, yet a secondary or tertiary purpose of that entity is to engage or captivate an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion it may also be said to be within the entertainment industry – but to a lesser extent. What I want is a term that describes how ‘strong’, ‘powerful’, ‘prevailing’ and ‘central’ engaging or captivating an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion is to an entity. The word I have in mind is somewhat cumbersome, but (for the want of a better one) is entertainmentnous which I will define as being:

‘The degree to which the intended purpose of an entity is to engage or captivate an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion’.

I’m not quite sure whether inventing a new word makes me a genius, an egotist, a cheat, or a combination of the above, but indeed I have had to invent a new word, as no word currently exists to describe the quality that I am currently studying.

Considering the above, some examples now follow:
· City based observation towers – many of these have dual functions as being the bases of radio and television transmitters, as was originally the case with the Berlin Radio Tower. However when observation decks are built on these towers for paying visitors to look over miles of cityscape views they become entertainment venues. They stimulate visual senses by providing visitors with a captivating sight to which they would not normally be accustomed – which becomes there primary purpose. Many also provide other audio and visual information (including piped commentary and signage) which puts them partially within the edutainment sector of the entertainment industry. Some provide more thrilling quirks such as glass floors that are designed to stimulate levels of fright and adrenalin amongst visitors by making more apparent the dangers of being at such a height, this puts them partially within the thrillertainment sector of the entertainment industry. It could then be asked that if an observation deck could be a venue within the entertainment industry, why can’t any tall building? The answer to this lies within the primary purpose of the building or venue. An office block that consists solely of offices has been created with the primary purpose of providing industrial space. Whilst the views from offices may be captivating to those within them, an office block is not an entertainment venue as they are not built with the primary purpose of creating sensory stimulation to a captivated audience. If however, an office was converted into an observation point, for an audience of people to experience city views – this would become an entertainment venue. This example highlights the very thin line that exists between what falls within the entertainment industry, and what doesn’t.

· Fairground rides have been created with the primary purpose of providing sensory stimulation to participants in a number of ways, including: visually (views from, or views of); audibly with music and sound effects; and by inducing adrenalin as the participant often experiences thrills associated with fast movement and gravity – this puts them within the thrillertainment sector of the entertainment industry.

· Many sculptures and statues either within art galleries or outside have been created with the primary purpose of captivating an audience, by providing visual sensory stimulation and / or emotion, some may also provide audio stimulation, and physical ‘touchy’ stimulation – others may even provide taste and smell stimulation as could be the case with the chocolate statue of Jesus Christ at Manhattan’s Lab Gallery. This therefore places them within the entertainment industry, but if a statue can constitute being an object of entertainment, can a building? After all many buildings are visually spectacular sites that can captivate audiences. The answer to this question is yes – sometimes. If a building was created with the primary purpose of being visually stimulating to an audience then it is an object of entertainment which should lie within the entertainment industry. If a building was created with it being visually stimulating to an audience in mind, but not as the primary purpose, then it may lie partially within the entertainment industry. Many ancient buildings were not originally created with the primary purpose of being visually stimulating in mind, but have come to be considered objects of entertainment purely because of there uniqueness and novelty value, as is the case with many English castles, which may captivate spectators.

· Libraries exist as information gateways, where books, newspapers, journals, audio visual sources, and ICT facilities are stored for access by visitors. The primary purpose of a library is to provide information. By reading and researching information in a library a visitor is captivated and stimulated visually as well as possibly emotionally, this does constitute being entertainment. Indeed the printed media sector is an established part of the entertainment industry, making libraries entertainment venues.

· Billboards like any form of display art are designed with the primary purpose of triggering an outcome from people who see them. Billboards engage or captivate an audience and are used to gain peoples attention with the intention of generating an emotion within the audience about what it is the billboard is promoting. The emotion may trigger a number of outcomes, including a product being purchased or a political party being voted for. A billboard is an entertainment entity, that lies within the 'sellertainment' sector of the entertainment industry.

· Massage is the practice of applying pressure, motion, or vibration to the soft tissue areas of the body. It exists in a wide range of forms including professionally where a masseuse may massage a client on a massage table, and erotic massage which is designed to induce sexual stimulation (adult entertainment). This constitutes being entertainment as the audience (of one) is captive, and experiences sensory stimulation through touch, which is designed to either relax or stimulate soft tissue areas of the body. In addition to this, therapies including aromas and music are often included in a professional massage treatment to help relax the mind.

This blog entry is made up of a combination of reflections which will contribute towards work in progress, the culmination of which will be a published journal article (that I am currently writing), this is intended to highlight and give a real identity to what the entertainment industry really is. In my research so far I have found that there is no clear consensus as to what constitutes entertainment – and until this can be clarified, it is difficult to give a ‘proper’ identification to the industry. I can also see that the entertainment industry is potentially massive – and extremely complex. It has a large number of ‘grey’ areas that may or may not be entertainment and may also be considered something else besides due to their primary purpose and entertainmentnous. It is my intent to build upon this further with a series of models, including one that uses concentric rings to demonstrate entertainmentnous, and one which uses Venn Diagrams to explore the complexity of the industry – which itself needs breaking down into all of the sub-sectors which make it up. I would be extremely happy to hear your thoughts on this entry (good or bad), as this is an area which really does warrant much further discussion and debate.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gambles Shambles

Today the non-voted in, and non-representative House of Lords voted against the Casino Advisory Panel's (CAP) decision to site Britain's first regional casino in Manchester, and in doing so scuppered the chances of 16 other smaller casinos being sited around the UK. This was after the democratically elected House of Commons voted in favour of the CAPs decision.

Whilst this may prove to be a relief for Gambler's Anonymous and Blackpool Council (who missed out on the bid) it does nothing to progress the UK gambling industry, and it certainly does no favours to the thousands of potential employees and businesses that would have been involved in constructing all of the casinos. Indeed on the face of it, sixteen smaller casinos around the UK will now not go ahead because three Lords seemingly preferred Blackpool to Manchester as the location for Britain's first regional casino.

Has this whole exercise been a sham from start to finish.....YOU BET! Read more about it here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Disney Experience: Part 1, The Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney World (WDW) is not a theme park, WDW is 47 square miles of reclaimed Florida swampland, on which has been built arguably the world’s largest tourist and entertainment resort consisting of: The Magic Kingdom; EPCOT; Disney MGM Studios; Animal Kingdom; water parks; golf courses; twenty resort hotels; Downtown Disney; a sports complex; and much more besides. Not all of the land purchased by the Disney Corporation has been utilised, and developments still continue in this thriving tourist area.

I went to WDW in January 2007, to meet Tourism students on industrial work placement in a variety of locations – besides that, my personal motivation was a search for new thrillertainment experiences on world class white knuckle rides.

My first visit was to the Magic Kingdom, and as I was not staying at a Disney resort, I had to take a taxi to WDW, and enter the Magic Kingdom using a monorail. It was late January, and the enormous car parks surrounding the monorail were almost empty – I was quite glad of this, as it would mean smaller queues on the park. The monorail ride was impressive, along the way it was possible to view the Disney lake, and in the distance Cinderella’s Castle – the WDW icon. Footage from my arrival and this ride can be viewed below.

I arrived at the front gates to find a strict security process of bag searches and finger printing to get into the park, which everyone was subjected to. The bag searches were quite fast and the queue to get through them did not take as long as expected. They are evidently in place to prevent people from bringing anything into the park that the Disney corporation does not want there (although they didn’t stop Banksy at the California park), including drugs and alcohol, as well as more sinister items such as weapons and firearms. In light of the September 11th attacks, it was revealed by several news organisations that WDW (which after all is an American icon) could be a possible future target for terrorists, so having high profile security checks is all part of a process to reassure the visiting public that WDW is a safe place to be. At this point I hasten to add that the car park by the mono rail, as well as the station and the mono rail train itself had a minimal security presence so the real security effectiveness of these bag checks is quite minimal. After all, a terrorist attack anywhere in the 47 square miles of the complex would cause a media frenzy, and have a huge impact upon visitor numbers from an American public that (as Micheal Moore points out in Fahrenheit 9/11) is too easily influenced by the media.

The finger printing technology was also disconcerting – I wasn’t happy about surrendering my biometric information to a global corporation, but I had to do so in order to visit the park. I did enquire about this and was told that it is used to prevent people from passing their tickets to other people – every Disney ticket has a matching finger print. As a revenue protection mechanism fingerprinting does make sense, but after undergoing the same process at the airport upon entering the USA, it did leave me feeling a little paranoid that my movements stateside were being tracked…especially in light of the fact that according to Eliot (2003) in his book Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince, Walt Disney himself spied for J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI – one cannot help but wonder if there remains a long lasting relationship between the Disney Corporation and the US government.

Upon entering the Magic Kingdom itself, it did not take long to find Main Street, and witness for myself the view to Cinderella’s Castle as seen on numerous TV programmes and in countless newspapers and magazines. Attention to detail was more than evident, and the park immediately struck me as being very clean. As I wandered down the street I realised that just about every building was a concession of one sort or another, including gift shops, bakeries, restaurants, tea rooms, and fast food outlets. In each concession there were people in costumes (known as cast members). To be truthful I didn’t find this much of an attraction – in essence it seemed to be spending money to enter a theme park to spend more money….no thank you. So off I set in search of some thrillertainment which is really what I came for.

The view down Main Street to Cinderella's Castle

A show was in progress outside of Cinderella’s Castle, and the piped audio to this could be heard all the way down Main Street. It was evidently aimed at children, but the constant reference to dreams and magic seemed both too much of a step from reality for my liking, and a little sycophantic – needless to say it grated on me rather quickly.

The idea of each Disney theme park is take the visitors out of reality, and immerse them in a carefully controlled ‘fantasy’ environment. This ‘virtual reality’ may work for many visitors, but it takes more than piped music and people dressed as mammals for me to just forget everything else that is going on in the world. I headed towards the train station to visit Frontierland, and en route I witnessed a trademark Disney parade – which in all fairness was no better than something that the majorettes could put have on. I was already beginning to feel a big Disney disappointment was on the cards. The reality did not seem to be as impressive as the hype that had brought me to the Magic Kingdom. This parade can be viewed on the footage below…..

Frontierland was little better, although the theme was very different, based on a Wild West / Tom Sawyer era. I did however find me some rootin’ tootin’ thrillertainment courtesy of the Big Thunder Mountain (BTM) rollercoaster, which was built in 1980 and replicated at all other world incarnations of Disney Land. With a top speed of 36 miles per hour BTM is never going to win any awards for speed, height or adrenalin inducement – but it does provide a good long ride of three minutes and fourteen seconds which most modern rollercoasters with their ‘shoot-you-high, turn-you-upside-down, then-bring-you-back’ philosophy simply cannot compete with. In peak season queues for this ride must be pretty horrendous, but I only had to wait in line for ten minutes. Footage of the ride can be viewed below…..

I then went looking for Splash Mountain – Frontierland’s second white knuckle ride – but unfortunately – it was closed which I found unbelievable. It isn’t as though there are enough white knuckle rides that you might not miss one of them – in white knuckle terms, Disney was running at 66% capacity – and at an entrance fee of nearly $47, this was simply not good enough.

I got back on the train that circles the park to visit Fantasyland where I spent approximately five minutes before returning to the station to wait for the train onwards – had I been five years old or a Disney fanatic, Fantasyland might have appealed to me, but as a slightly cynical thirty-something from down-to-earth Yorkshire, England it held no appeal whatsoever.

By the time the train had arrived (I waited an unusually long 15 minutes) and I had got my bearings to take me to Tomorrowland and Space Mountain , I realised that I was running out of time, as I had a late afternoon appointment at Downtown Disney and little idea of how to get there. So I ended up staying on the train to get off at Liberty Square, where I left the park the same way I entered it. Even my exit from the park proved eventful as a rather surly man wearing Mickey Mouse hands initially refused my exit through an open gate because I wasn’t in a wheelchair – what difference does it really make? Oh I forgot, I have to do things the Disney way – right?

To get to Downtown I found out that I was required to catch a bus to a Disney Resort Hotel (I chose Key West as it sounded nice) and would change there for a Downtown bus. In front of me in the queue to board the bus, a little girl with her parents was having a coughing fit. The bus pulled up and in a moment of ‘Basil Fawlty’ customer dis-service the driver refused to allow them on board until the girl had stopped coughing, ‘in case she coughs something up’ – to add insult to injury he then asked the family to stand behind a billboard so that other people in the queue would not be able to see them. I realise that part of the WDW remit is to shield visitors from reality in a place of ‘magic’ and ‘dreams’, but I doubt at that particular moment that this family felt like they were anywhere magical, and an echo of discomfort resonated along the queue. At least however, the driver waited for them, and eventually after five minutes or so they boarded. They left the bus at the same stop as I did, and in a moment of complete irony the driver piped up ‘have a magical day y’all’ – yeah right.

My first experience of Disney was far from positive, I entered the park full of excitement about what unknown wonders might lay ahead, but I left it, disillusioned, disappointed and largely disinterested in the Magic Kingdom, and I seriously doubt if I will ever go back.

I was due to visit Disney MGM Studios the next day – so I was hoping for something much, much, better……

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Aviation Entertainment

Entertainment is not limited to the entertainment industry, we can be entertained by any number of things, looking out of the window of a moving car, train or aeroplane can be most entertaining if the scenery is engaging - as this clip of a landing at Leeds Bradford Airport demonstrates.

As a resident of Leeds with a knowledge of local landmarks along the flight path I was very much engaged and enthralled by what I could see from the window of the aircraft - however this aeroplane, and indeed air transport in general is not a part of the entertainment industry.

The Entertainment Industry comprises of a plethora of businesses, organisations, individuals, venues and premises which have a central purpose to engage or enthral an audience. The central purpose of air travel is to transport passengers or freight from one location to another not to engage or enthral an audience, however aircraft can very easily become objects of entertainment - particulary at organised airshows (which fall within the entertainment industry) as the sole purpose of an airshow is to attract, enthral, and engage an audience using a variety of aircraft.

Watching an aeroplane land from the ground may not hold mass appeal, but to some individuals this spectacle can be most entertaining - which is why at many airports there are viewing areas for this purpose. The aeroplanes that are being viewed are still not a part of the entertainment industry, however as the viewing area has been purposely built with the sole intention of captivating an audience of aircraft enthusiasts, it does indeed fall within the remit of the entertainment industry - as well as of course the airport industry, transport industry and tourism industry.

As a point of fact, the only major difference between the entertainment at an airport viewing area, and the entertainment at an organised airshow is that airshows have aircraft displayed solely for entertainment - at airport viewing areas the entertainment on offer is a by product of the normal function of the aircraft, but as the viewing area is a venue built specifically for the purpose of the enjoyment of aircraft viewing, the viewing area itself is an entertainment venue. The image below was taken at the Manchester Airport viewing area.

If you look hard enough, entertainment can be found in a variety of places - many of which might seem obscure - but if they are engaging and enthralling, their entertainment credentials cannot be denied.