It's the small ironies that often give away the big picture.

And this week we have the perfect example in the Northern English town of Huddersfield.

The ban on smoking in public spaces, which has been spreading across much of the world, has forced players of the game of bingo out of their fuggy halls and they are being welcomed into the comfort of the local cinema.

For those not brought up on the joys of the numbers game, a great many of the UK 's cinemas were converted in the 1980s into bingo halls. Now it seems there is the chance of returning the compliment.

In looking at the future of theatrical we tend to concentrate on how its content can be differentiated from supposed rivals at home.

Attention has naturally focused on the 'immersive' nature of film that television could not possibly replicate. The emphasis is on cinema as spectacle.

The most obvious manifestation of the idea in recent years has been the renewed interest in 3D.

It is an idea that has come a long way in the last three or four years from what seemed a slightly daft attempt to find an answer to today's box office problems in a 1950s gimmick.

The idea that it is a mere fad, however, has now been tested at the box office, led by concert films from U2 and Disney global pop favourite Hannah Montana..

A panel from the makers of U2 3D hosted by the UK Film Council offered up a vision that 3D might become mainstream mass entertainment.

The argument is convincing at the technical level: We may not even need those ridiculous spectacles in a few short years.

It's convincing at the production level too: wider adoption of 3D will naturally bring down the costs.

What's less convincing is the business model for exhibitors. The 3D chain IMAX has profited from a non-competetive franchise model, where prices are kept at a premium by scarcity of screens.

That novelty value would soon disappear if 3D screens proliferate and it is reasonable to worry about the contempt of familiarity. But the answer to those concerns lies beyond considerations of format.

The real value of the theatre, it is now increasingly understood, lies in what was once supposed to be its weakness - the fact that it offers a communal experience.

When the history of this period is written, a chapter will be devoted to then illusion of choice.

It's not just how often the huge increase in entertainment options now available often seem to deliver less that is actually entertaining.

It's also true that other media offer entertainment experienced as an individual. There's nothing wrong with that for Generation iPod.

But it has accentuated the desire for those diminishing number of options for shared events where we physically meet. How often do we see the term 'authenticity' used as the true virtue.

Alongside massive growth in music downloading, cable sports, videogaming, we have seen a rise in demand for live concerts and theatre, stadium sports and even warehouse gaming events.

It's no coincidence that concert films have proved such a draw for 3D. A recent one-off gig from rock legends Led Zeppelin attracted an estimated 2 million online applications for just 2,000 places.

That sounds like a business opportunity if ever there was one.

Another of life's little ironies is that the anti-smoking movement that is threatening to put press ure on censors, distributors and film-makers may well benefit cinemas taking away one of the advantages of alternative entertainment such as bars and indeed bingo halls.

And there's an even bigger advantage that cinema has to itself - and one that appeals to the misanthropist in us all.

Cinema is the one public space where you get the communal experience without having to actually see the public. In bingo where the sexist call sign for the number 88 is 'two fat ladies' that might hold particular value.