Opinion, Upon Further Review

Hollywood must revive cinematic experience to completely capture audiences

In December 2015, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino rolled out a unique cinematic experience around his new film, “The Hateful Eight.” Prior to its wide release in theaters across the country, “The Hateful Eight” first received a limited release in what was called the “roadshow version.” Modeled after the release style of major blockbusters in the first half of the 20th century, this version featured extended footage not present in the later wide release along with an intermission and a musical overture. Programs were handed out at the beginning of each screening.

The roadshow release wasn’t simply a movie – it was a fully packaged theatrical experience. While the roadshow release was a massive box-office success, the wide release generated more modest revenue.

What is the lesson here? The massive success of the roadshow release shows that audiences are thirsting for cinematic experiences.

In the olden days, big-budget epics such as “Ben-Hur,” “The Ten Commandments” and “Lawrence of Arabia” captured their audiences with depth and scope. Each of these films had an intermission and runtimes exceeded three and a half hours. Conversely, modern blockbusters that so much as creep toward the three-hour mark get routinely chastised for their length, “Avatar” and “The Hobbit” trilogy serving as two recent examples.

It would seem that audiences and critics have lost their taste for epics. Whatever gets the audience in and out of the theater as fast as possible is considered optimal. The results are snappier but more one-dimensional, consumerist experiences.

Contributing to this mindset could be the loss of the presentational style that Tarantino fought so hard to bring back this winter. The pomp and circumstance tells the audience that they’re in for something rich and meaty. A cinematic feast.

When movies lose that quality and specialness, they are no longer experiences to be engrossed by but are products to be consumed. Audiences don’t go to the cinema to be completely absorbed anymore, they go to be amused for about two hours, swallowing easily manageable slices of entertainment before moving on to the next distraction. In the process, big-budget films as an art have lost that sense of dignified grandeur.

As movies become more easily available via digital means in home media with streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, the cinema has suffered. Theater attendance has declined for years now, taking hit after hit as younger viewers ignore the theater in favor of their laptop or TV.

To be fair, who can really blame them? The average American movie theater is no longer an exciting place to see a movie. The actual theatrical experience is prone to disruption by bright cell-phone screens, chatter in nearby rows or poorly projected images. The home theater or computer screen offers a controlled environment, free from unwanted interruptions and annoyances.

If studios wish to see millennials start to contribute to box office tallies again, the theater needs to offer an element that small screens can’t. Going to the cinema needs to be an experience again. What is better way to bring back that feeling than allowing blockbuster films to be epic once more? Release films that are three hours or more, bring back intermissions and hand out programs. Make the film the highlight event of a viewer’s week rather than a way to kill an hour or two. The big-budget epic is showcased best when it is an all-consuming experience rather than something to down as quickly as possible. If Hollywood wants to bring audiences back into the cinematic fold, they need to prove that movies can be that special thing again.

Andrew Allen is a junior majoring in communications. Upon Further Review runs alternate Thursdays.

Featured image courtesy Pixabay user DWilliams

I

n December 2015, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino rolled out a unique cinematic experience with his new film, “The Hateful Eight.” Prior to its wide release in theaters across the country, “The Hateful Eight” first received a limited release in what was called the “roadshow version.” Modeled after the release style of major blockbusters in the first half of the 20th century, this version featured extended footage not present in the later wide release along with an intermission and a musical overture. Programs were handed out at the beginning of each screening.

The roadshow release wasn’t simply a movie – it was a fully packaged theatrical experience. While the roadshow release was a massive box-office success, the wide release generated more modest revenue.

What is the lesson here? The massive success of the roadshow release shows that audiences are thirsting for cinematic experiences.

In the olden days, big-budget epics such as “Ben-Hur,” “The Ten Commandments” and “Lawrence of Arabia” captured their audiences with their depth and scope. Each of these films had an intermission and runtimes exceeding three and a half hours. Conversely, modern blockbusters that so much as creep toward the three-hour mark get routinely chastised for their length, “Avatar” and “The Hobbit” trilogy serving as two recent examples.

It would seem that audiences and critics have lost their taste for epics. Whatever gets the audience in and out of the theater as fast as possible is considered optimal. The results are snappier but more one-dimensional, consumerist experiences.

Contributing to this mindset could be the loss of the presentational style that Tarantino fought so hard to bring back this winter. The pomp and circumstance tells the audience that they’re in for something rich and meaty. A cinematic feast.

When movies lose that special quality, they are no longer experiences to be engrossed by but are products to be consumed. Audiences don’t go to the cinema to be completely absorbed; they go to be amused for about two hours, swallowing manageable slices of entertainment before moving on to another distraction. In the process, big-budget films have lost a sense of dignified, artistic grandeur.

As movies become more accessible via digital means in home media, the cinema has suffered. Theater attendance has been declining for years as younger viewers choose their laptop or TV over the theater.

To be fair, who can really blame them? The average American cinema is no longer an exciting place to see a movie. The actual theatrical experience is disrupted by bright cellphone screens, audience chatter or poorly projected images. The home theater or computer screen offers a controlled environment, free from unwanted interruptions and annoyances.

If studios wish to see millennials contributing more to box office tallies, the theater needs to offer something that small screens can’t. Going to the cinema needs to be an experience again. Allow blockbuster films to be epic once more. Release films that are three hours or more, bring back intermissions and hand out programs. Make the film the highlight event of a viewer’s week rather than a way to kill an hour or two. The big-budget epic is showcased best when it is an all-consuming experience rather than something to down as quickly as possible. If Hollywood wants to bring audiences back into the cinematic fold, they need to prove that movies can be that special thing again.

Andrew Allen is a junior majoring in communications. Upon Further Review runs alternate Thursdays.

Feature image courtesy Pixabay user DWilliams.

February 24, 2016

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Andrew Allen


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