No personal blog crapola.
Just one guy's quest to unlock the mysterious art of storytelling on screen.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The End Of Cinema?

Increasingly, audiences are staying away from cinemas. There are many reasons for this, but you can point to one issue as the cinema killer: viewing choice.

With the shrinking window between a film's cinema release and its DVD release, and affordability of home cinemas, it comes down to this: is the film worth seeing in the cinema or are you happy to wait a few months to watch it at home?

Let's weigh up the risks and costs:

  • Watch at home
    1. You decide when the movie starts
    2. You decide if you want to sit through ads before the movie
    3. You decide if you want to watch it quietly alone or raucously with a bunch of friends
    4. You decide how loud you want the audio
    5. You decide the price and type of snacks you purchase to accompany the movie; or you can decide nobody eats during the movie
    6. You can ask the audience to switch off their mobile phones
    7. You can decide the movie is not so hot, stop it, and return later to watch the rest of it

  • Watch at the cinema
    1. You risk people talking, chewing, slurping loudly, mobile phones ringing, etc.
    2. You risk morons in the audience otherwise ruining the film-going experience
    3. You risk poor projection
    4. You risk poor sound quality
    5. You pay for gas to drive to the cinema and perhaps pay a parking fee
    6. You pay inflated prices for unhealthy snacks
    7. You pay inflated prices for a movie ticket -- I can buy a movie on secondhand DVD from a rental store for the same price (or less) as seeing it once at a multiplex cinema
That's just off the top of my head. I'm sure you can think of many things I left off the list.

I'm not anti-cinema, but I do believe the experience has diminished continuously since the eighties. Most heinous to me is the decline of the true cinema projectionist and the rise of the multiplex staffer who serves at the candybar, sells tickets, cleans the cinemas, and -- oh, yes -- runs the film at the appointed time.

So what can make a person want to visit a cinema instead of waiting to see the movie at home?
  • It's a social event
    Most people enjoy dressing up a little and heading out with friends. Maybe grab something to eat beforehand, or go for coffee after. It's a reason to get out of the house.
  • It's the big-screen experience
    A 50-inch plasma TV is still no match for that big cinema screen. Unless the film is projected out of focus, has splice marks, and the screen has grey splotches where a cup of Coca-Cola splatted against it and they never bothered to pay for proper cleaning.
  • It's a communal event
    I almost lumped this one with It's a social event, but it's not quite the same thing. There's something primal about hundreds of people gathering in a dark, cavernous room, all silent and focussed on the same object (the screen) for hours. When a movie works, and that movie reaches deep into our common humanity, the audience becomes a single entity for a time. We react as one -- we jump at the horrors on screen, choke up as we watch the characters suffer, laugh at the funny stuff, and punch the air when the hero saves the day. In short, the cinema group experience strips away our differences and reminds us that, when you get right down to it, we all share the same emotions and needs. But that's just for movies that work. And when they work, staying at home is simply not an option. For those of my generation, can you imagine not having seen the original Star Wars on the big screen? Do you honestly believe the opening scene would've filled you with the same jaw-dropping sense of awe when watching it on your plasma TV?
This last item touches upon something we're hearing more and more: I don't go to cinemas any more because the movies suck!

Do movies today suck more than movies of ten years ago? That's a personal judgement. For me, I don't get that frisson down the spine that I regularly felt when watching movies during the Eighties. Perhaps it's because I'm older now. But perhaps not. Maybe it's true that films don't connect like they used to, and that's why people are staying away from cinemas. Perhaps the film industry's big players have lost the plot... literally.

I hope this site contributes in some small way to helping you, the budding screenwriter, figure out how to connect deeply with your audience.

1 comment:

Belzecue said...

Is the audience returning? This article says yes:

http://newyorkmetro.com/news/media/westcoastoffice/16770/index.html

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