Friday, 18 June 2010

In cinemas now...

...said the advert for Chris Smith's new film Black Death. Except it's not in cinemas - not in the ones near me anyway. After some searching I found the nearest cinema showing the film was in Crawley, which is about a 50 minute journey on the train and then a 20 minute walk to the cinema. I do really want to see it, but after some internal debating decided I was not prepared to venture into the depths of Crawley for the privilege.

This is becoming a regular occurrence. I was unable to see Neil Marshall's Centurion for the same reason, making it the first of Marshall's films I haven't seen on the big screen. It's further proof that cinema screenings are simply adverts for the impending DVD release these days, which I wouldn't mind if the screenings themselves actually existed. Distributors are now simply pumping all the money they can into cinema advertising rather than paying for the screenings themselves, so a film will be advertised extensively in cities where it will not be shown. A classic example was the film Blood which had posters on bus stops everywhere but in the end was screened in a couple of cinemas in London. And yes, in the end it wasn't that great a film either, but that's not the point.

If it's all just smoke and mirrors, why not just advertise the DVD and skip the screening altogether? I suppose the idea of the cinema still holds more prestige than a straight-to-DVD release. And it means you can get press screenings and do the red carpet premieres and get all the extra attention despite the fact that you're talking about a film that no one can really see for another week or so. But thinking about it we're practically at that stage already - Heartless was released in cinemas on a Friday and then on DVD the following Monday.

At the same time, as more emphasis is heaped upon the home cinema experience (which is shortly to be in 3D although I don't even have HD yet) it won't be long before the tables are turned completely and cinema becomes the inferior viewing experience. And maybe that's not all bad. Maybe the cinema we know will cease to exist but what comes out of it will be more like independent theatre and all cinemas will become arthouses or revival theatres (if all cinemas were like the New Beverly I'd be pretty happy). And maybe that will have some advantages, like a guarantee that the cinema will only be used by people who actually want to see the films and not talk on their mobiles or chat to their mates. At the same time, if we do go down that route I'm still not sure it will increase my chances of seeing genre films like Black Death on the big screen.

Despite all this my last three recent cinema experiences (Bad Lieutenant, Prince of Persia, Streetdance 3D) were all surprisingly pleasant. There were no projection or sound problems and most importantly no annoying people. They're all at home watching downloaded films on their super-HD-4D-holographic-projector TV. So cinema may be dying or at least morphing into something else, but I think this period of slow decline may also be the best time to go.

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