Which gets you more: a live show or a movie?


28th February 2020

WATCHING a live show is much more thrilling than a TV show or film.

That’s the finding of a study by scientists at University College London (UCL). They analysed the heart rates and sweat glands of spectators watching a theatre production and a movie, and the differences were significant.

Audience responses were studied during a live performance of the musical Dreamgirls and the film adaptation of the same show. Some 70 people aged 18-65 took part in the research.

The results showed that heart rates go up and down as a story we are watching develops. But the heart rate’s highs and lows were highest and lowest when people were witnessing the live show rather than the film version.

Professor Joseph Devlin of UCL explained why: “A big part of the live performance is that we are fundamentally a social species. Any time you go to a live performance, whether it’s a concert or a show, people often talk about the energy or the buzz of it… but what is it exactly?”

Devlin found a remarkable answer – within a group of spectators, people’s hearts start to synchronise (working at the same rate), and we start to feed off the responses of others around us. So when we see audience reactions such as gasps, claps, laughs or cries, we are more likely to do the same. This is known as ‘emotional amplification’. We feed off the energy of both the performance and the crowd around us. This, Devlin says, “leads to greater audience engagement and produces the higher highs and the lower lows”.

The size of the audience is a big factor in how much of a thrill we get – even with films. The study found that watching a movie with friends or family, for example, is a more engaging experience than watching
it alone. But the emotional highs and lows still don’t come close to watching a live show.

In 2017, UCL researchers found that watching live theatre can stimulate our cardiovascular system (the system that pumps blood around our body) as much as doing 28 minutes of exercise!

What do you think? Do you find yourself getting more involved in a story if it’s live? Do you prefer watching films with friends and family?


Which gets you more: a live show or a movie?


Leave a Reply

oceangirl · 11 months ago

I prefer watching a live show because I feel more connected to whatever’s being told because I am right there, in the audience

oceangirl · 11 months ago

First to comment

evantml · 11 months ago

A live show has much more atmosphere. Everyone joins in.

easter · 11 months ago

I prefer live shows because it's not on a screen. It's real life

lindawalla · 11 months ago


lindawalla · 11 months ago

Also I decided I would vote for a live show because...er...I don't actually really know but a live show just really gets me!

crazycats · 11 months ago

I’m more involved if a show is live; you see the show rather than watch the show. You might say there isn’t a difference in seeing and watching but there is: when you see something it is usually live and with your eyes on the other hand, watching is usually on a digital device.

quinoa63 · 11 months ago

I think a live show gets me more excited because you know at that moment what is on in front of you is happening right now!

5honypony · 11 months ago

First to comment! SAVE OUR PLANET!

2911 · 11 months ago

I find that I enjoy a live show more because you can connect with the actors and can become part of the show

lucia10 · 11 months ago

First comment! This poll is so hard to choose from! 😬 Which shall I pick... 👌 Okay!!!

ocean32 · 11 months ago

I find watching a live show more interesting because you can truly feel what they are feeling, rather than just staring at a screen. In my case it makes me feel more emotions

auseepic · 11 months ago

I think live shows are so much more thrilling and allow laughs when sometimes silly errors occur!

omangion · 11 months ago

I prefer watching a live show because the actors interact with the crowd more as it is live.

cloudy23 · 11 months ago

I think live shows are more thrilling because you watch it all unravel before you and the feeling is breathtaking!

cloudy23 · 11 months ago

Live shows make you feel more involved and engrossed.

loopylolli · 11 months ago

A live show definitely gives me more of a thrill than a movie because of all the singing and dancing and the sets

sleepyfam · 11 months ago

I prefer a live show because they might invite u up on stage!

mimiphia · 11 months ago

A live show is more thrilling because it is in the flesh and you feel that you are really experiencing the thrill.
#First to comment

remi27 · 11 months ago

A live show is definitely more exciting as you can see the act with your own eyes and there is much more atmosphere. I would certainly choose going to see a show in London's West End instead of watching a film.

remi27 · 11 months ago


mhkmal · 11 months ago

Definitely, a live show as it is way more exciting and is much more entertaining to watch

tepymaki · 11 months ago

Definitely a live show for me. 🙂

starblaze3 · 11 months ago

I ❤️❤️❤️ live shows!
They make me feel much more engaged with the performance😀😥😬😮

champs2005 · 11 months ago

when watching a live show I feel in the audience

cleverclog · 11 months ago

I am always nervous that something will go wrong whereas in a move, I now it's all tip-top; edited, cut and all.

cutiecat · 11 months ago

i love pantomimes !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

thepanther · 11 months ago

Live shows get me out of my seat! They're much more active so I actually get to be doing something!!!😁

onioncup · 11 months ago

I get bored when i watch a live show

puppyluv · 11 months ago

A movie is amazing! When it's a live show I can't hear anything!

daveadave1 · 11 months ago

I like live shows more because they are more exciting and adrenaline building then movies.

elisabeh11 · 11 months ago

Live show. It is shorter.😴😵

snufflypug · 10 months ago

You are more in the moment at a live show, peeps.

redtoad · 10 months ago


sloth-love · 10 months ago

A movie can be more thrilling and create better surprises however, I think live shows can create a better environment for the audience as your all together in a theatre, laughing at the same time, enjoying the moments together. But with movies you can watch them over and over again if you really wanted and you can't do that will a stage show!

bamboomilk · 10 months ago

A live show definitely! If it's a really thrilling type of thing, then it's a much better at a live show because you can see the people who were in it and get autographs and things. Also, if it's things like Ariana Grande (my biggest inspiration) you can actually see her! SQUEEEEEE! If you're watching her all you can do is dream you were really there to see her.

mat29110 · 10 months ago

I definitely think live show, but we will have to watch with this covid19 out!!!!

aspeni · 10 months ago

I love movies. You don't have to try to see whats happening and you can snuggle up on your sofa.

gwenrat · 10 months ago

Live show cause they are really there whereas in a movie, yes they might be really famous, they are not there so it is not as fun

rachel360 · 9 months ago

I like live shows as you can engage in them but In movies you can’t

edmonds123 · 9 months ago

41st to comment

queenshine · 9 months ago

I prefer a movie

cakelover1 · 9 months ago

I like both but wicked is great and if a play is a live show then yes because i love movies but wicked is boss

xkruger · 9 months ago

I prefer live shows but would you really watch Harry Potter without special effects?

royalrebel · 8 months ago

movies are better because you can snuggle up with everyone and the hardly cost a bit.

backbender · 8 months ago

I agree with oceangirl. Exactly what they said.❤️

camembert · 8 months ago

I prefer live shows because there is no editing and it is right there and then.😀

dog.lover · 8 months ago

Movies you can get a different feel from it as your not with other people your at your home normally

sarah.m · 7 months ago

it has to be a movie. do you know why? because a movie can be watched many times whereas a live show, everyone has only one shot at seeing it.

ganesh26 · 7 months ago

I like movie 🎥 cos it can be horror and if it’s live u would spot it was a fluke straight away (and because it means popcorn 🍿 Mmmmm!!!!)

ganesh26 · 7 months ago

And I agree with Xkruger cos would NOT watch Harry Potter without effects???????????

arianna23 · 7 months ago

Cool ^o^

jedboi · 7 months ago


fierygirl · 3 months ago

I prefer a live show like a panto because they're often so comical!

badgehuff · 3 months ago

A movie because you can watch them anywhere at anytime.