The Future of the Cinema

It’s always a magical feeling when the lights go down and the big screen comes to life, welcome to the movies.

“Astor Theatre” by State Library Victoria Collections is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The above is (as good as I can remember) a quote of the opening narration that would greet every film I saw as a child at my local cinema. 

As someone who has directed several short films, I know how the consumption context of a media product can influence its perceived quality. Did you ever see 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) on TV and wonder what all the fuss was about? Do yourself a favour and make sure you catch it in theatres the next chance you can, you’ll see.

I love the cinema, I love the communal nature, the sharing of a wonderful experience with complete strangers and of course watching a film with the best quality picture and sound. It is almost depressing to think that just over twelve months ago I was sitting in a packed Astor Theatre about to watch a 35mm print of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019).

The cinema means so many different things to so many different people. For some, it reminds them of those Friday nights spent with family and friends, for others, it was the scene of their first date. Some may just look back nostalgically as the venue they saw The Dark Knight (2008) for the first time or they may wish to forget it was where they were first subjected to The Phantom Menace (1999).

The cinema, has, like so many things been an unfortunate victim of this pandemic. Between constant delays of 2020’s most anticipated films to the many evenings spent desperately browsing Netflix, it seems the future of the cinema-going experience remains uncertain at best.

However, it’s easy to forget the cinema industry is and always has been going through a rapidly changing process.

If you’ve ever had the privilege of visiting an old movie theatre, you’ll notice they usually have a single auditorium with a large screen, a complete contrast to the multiplexes with dozens of air-conditioned theatres that have dominated the landscape since the 1960s.

The cinema has also taken the form of drive-in theatres (which have seen a recent resurgence) and outdoor screenings, which our Australian summer nights seem designed for. Not to mention the variety of services offered at cinemas today, from traditional screenings to parent-friendly sessions and gold class/premium experiences.

There is also the multitude of formats to consider, whether that that be the aspect ratio, the constant fluctuating trend of 3-D, digital and analogue projection and of course IMAX. 

While it may seem like the cinema experience is under threat from the pandemic and new technologies, it merely represents another chance to reinvent the experience once again.

Because if this pandemic has taught us anything, we need those communal experiences now more than ever.

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