Contemporary film exhibition in the PRC is undergoing a host of striking changes. Shifts from rural to urban sites, collective to individualized viewing, communal to commercial exchange, signal the transition of cinema going from the thing to do, to a thing to do—part of a ‘day’s outing.’ This essay investigates cinema, as a social space and practice in contemporary Beijing, China, and seeks to understand a spatial aesthetics that links particular sites of viewing (e.g. the cineplex, outdoor theater, art house, informal screens) to specific developmental time zones and social imaginaries. These shifting social architectures are the focus of this essay.

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