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The description is vague so please pardon.

It might be from the 1970's or earlier.

The story focuses on one protagonist in a bleak future society. It seems everyone is forced to spend time sitting and watching a large screen or TV of propaganda as I think it takes place in a theater except really large. The protagonist wants to break away from viewing, but can't. I'm not sure, but this viewing may be the way the masses are controlled, or it may be their only outlet from work or life.

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    Unlikely (so not worth an answer), but fits the description: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystery_Science_Theater_3000
    – fdomn-m
    Mar 27, 2023 at 14:34
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    This definitely happened to ONE character in A Clockwork Orange (1971)
    – Spencer
    Mar 27, 2023 at 22:18
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    Too recent but people forced to watch tv in a bleak future is part of the plot of the second episode of the first season of Black Mirror: imdb.com/title/tt2089049/?ref_=ttep_ep2. Maybe this episode was partly inspired by what you are looking for?
    – Taladris
    Mar 28, 2023 at 2:57
  • Maybe it was Herr August Landmesser in 1936 ? :) ... no I don't know but I hope you find out as it sounds fun.
    – Pryftan
    Mar 29, 2023 at 19:20

3 Answers 3

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Maybe The year of the sex olympics, a television play from 1968?

Plot summary from Wikipedia:

In the future, society is divided between 'low-drives' that equate with the labouring classes and 'hi-drives' who control the government and media. The low-drives are controlled by a constant broadcast of pornography that the hi-drives are convinced will pacify them, though one hi-drive, Nat Mender, believes that the media should be used to educate the low-drives. After the accidental death of a protester during the Sex Olympics gets a massive audience response, the co-ordinator Ugo Priest decides to commission a new programme. In The Live-Life Show, Nat Mender, his partner Deanie and their daughter Keten are stranded on a remote Scottish island while the low-drive audience watches. Mender's former colleague, Lasar Opie, feeling that "something's got to happen", decides to spice up the show by introducing a dangerous element to the island, and The Live-Life Show is deemed a triumph.

This 1968 television play inspired an episode of Black Mirror in 2011, Fifteen million merits.

I haven't seen the 1968 television play, but I've seen the Black Mirror episode, and it matches your description extremely well.

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  • I only remembered it now you point it out. I think you're probably right. Mar 26, 2023 at 18:56
  • Now there's an obscure flick, Stef -- first time in over half a century I've heard of it. Never saw it for sure but also never read or heard a mention of it. Of course, not a movie that would have been shown on network TV.
    – releseabe
    Mar 26, 2023 at 19:10
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    "The low-drives are controlled by a constant broadcast of pornography that the hi-drives are convinced will pacify them" ........it certainly keeps me pacified TBH
    – Danny Mc G
    Mar 26, 2023 at 20:55
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A Clockwork Orange.

A Stanley Kubrick film. Starring Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee etc..

Alex (Malcolm McDowell), the central character, is a charismatic, antisocial delinquent whose interests include classical music (especially Beethoven), committing rape, theft, and ultra-violence. He leads a small gang of thugs, Pete (Michael Tarn), Georgie (James Marcus), and Dim (Warren Clarke), whom he calls his droogs (from the Russian word друг, which is "friend", "buddy"). [.....]

After it was cited as having inspired copycat acts of violence, the film was withdrawn from British cinemas at Kubrick's behest, and it was also banned in several other countries. Later gaining a cult following it has been re-released there.

Wikipedia 2023.

Poster from theatrical release.

By Box Office Mojo, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56677118

Alex is convicted of murder and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Two years into the sentence, Alex eagerly takes up an offer to be a test subject for the Minister of the Interior's new Ludovico technique, an experimental aversion therapy for rehabilitating criminals within two weeks.

Alex is strapped to a chair, his eyes are clamped open, and he is injected with drugs. He is then forced to watch films of sex and violence, some of which are accompanied by the music of his favourite composer, Ludwig van Beethoven. Alex becomes nauseated by the films and, fearing the technique will make him sick upon hearing Beethoven, begs for an end to the treatment.

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  • Just an awesome film. My folks saw it when it first came out and yet when I got old enough to see it, it was still good. Sort of relevant even today, I think. It is genuinely funny in parts; without a doubt violent almost throughout; amazingly creepy in at least two or three, maybe more scenes. This is a movie written by a very intelligent writer (and also a very talented titan of a director) and you can read about how he came to write the book.
    – releseabe
    Mar 26, 2023 at 19:06
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    I immediately thought of this as well, but it is not so much that everyone is forced to watch a movie as punishment, but rather the central character is forced to watch a movie as 'rehabilitation' (programming).
    – Kirt
    Mar 27, 2023 at 15:32
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    The asker could be misremembering, but this part of the question doesn’t really match A Clockwork Orange: "everyone is forced to spend time sitting and watching a large screen or TV of propaganda as I think it takes place in a theater except really large" Mar 27, 2023 at 17:59
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    @releseabe, Re, "X-Rated in the USA." Initially, yes. But the X-rating was only because of a full-frontal shot of Alex as he is stripped of his civilian clothes upon entering the prison. After that one shot was cut,* they re-released it with an R rating. [* My high-school friend who got in to see the original told me that the look on Alex's face was priceless.] Mar 28, 2023 at 16:02
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    @SolomonSlow: I recall what the late, great George Carlin said about sex vs violence. I believe that was profound and relevant to just yesterday.
    – releseabe
    Mar 28, 2023 at 17:04
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It sounds a little like the excellent 1984, although the scenes where they watch the tele-screen on mass aren't necessarily on a large (cinema style) screen:

In 1984, civilisation has been ravaged by world war, civil conflict, and revolution. Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain) is a province of Oceania, one of the three totalitarian super-states that rule the world. It is ruled by "The Party" under the ideology of "Ingsoc" (a Newspeak shortening of "English Socialism") and the mysterious leader Big Brother, who has an intense cult of personality. The Party brutally purges out anyone who does not fully conform to their regime, using the Thought Police and constant surveillance through telescreens (two-way televisions), cameras, and hidden microphones. Those who fall out of favour with the Party become "unpersons", disappearing with all evidence of their existence destroyed.

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    My immediate first thought, too, but I think the others are better examples of what the OP is looking for. We'll only know when a check mark appears. You have my +1 just for being of the same mind.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 27, 2023 at 12:00
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    I thought of this as well, but the screens aren't for punishment but rather control - propaganda and emotional steering. Cf. Two Minutes Hate
    – Kirt
    Mar 27, 2023 at 15:39
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    Actually, there was a scene in the movie version where Winston attends a "two-minutes hate" in a large auditorium with hundreds of other people. The scene was famously parodied in a TV ad campaign for the original Macintosh computer. Mar 28, 2023 at 16:43

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