Where do you watch your blockbusters? The big screen still offers that movie magic
- Credit: Archant
Cinema is now more than 100 years old and is still as exciting as ever. Arts editor Andrew Clarke believes that the big screen is still the best place to experience movie magic
The opening of a new cinema, in fact any new arts venue, is a huge leap of faith. Sadly, the days of “Build it and they will come” have long gone. Cinema, as a night out, is still comparatively cheap but there are certainly more distractions, more competition for your leisure pound, than at any time in our history.
As the work week extends into a never quite finished, always in touch with your email haze, evenings and weekends are no longer automatically free time, so the opening of a new cinema, particularly an independent cinema has to be celebrated.
The Palace at Gorleston has just opened its doors and owner Patrick Duffy is planning a glitzy premiere-style formal event in early November. As a trustee of the Ipswich Film Theatre I know from hands on experience how difficult it is to sustain a project such as this over the long term, particularly if you are trying to offer the public something a little bit different.
When we first fought to re-open the IFT – seven years ago now – some people, friends included, thought we were mad. Like their counterparts in the 1950s, they believed that TV was the way forward. Netflix, Amazon, box-sets, HBO, long-form dramas played out in the comfort of your living room on large widescreen televisions, that was modern entertainment.
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But, it’s not – not really. What we at the IFT understand and what Patrick Duffy at the Palace at Gorleston understands, along with other East Anglian independents like the Hollywood Cinema at Lowestoft and Yarmouth, the Riverside in Woodbridge and the Aldeburgh Cinema, is that TV, even epic series like Game of Thrones, pales when you get a proper film up on the real big screen.
And, it’s not just about size. It’s about the experience. It’s the experience that TV can’t match. Watching an epic drama in your living room makes it all seem a little mundane, a little commonplace. It loses the magic that you get when you see it at the cinema.
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Part of that magic is sharing the experience with other people. Comedies are much funnier when you are seated in a large auditorium sharing the joke with several hundred like-minded souls. Similarly, the thrills and chills of a blockbuster action film or horror movie are amplified when everyone around you is gasping or jumping alongside you.
Also, it is wonderful to be transported to somewhere completely different – somewhere created in a film-maker’s imagination. For two hours, you can forget the hustle and bustle of daily life, the looming deadlines, the bills that need paying, the chores that need doing and just have a break.
You leave the outside world at the door, particularly if you switch your phone off.
Sharing stories is part of our cultural heritage and cinema is just a modern manifestation of a primeval bonding exercise. Joining together for a shared experience, for the passing on of thrilling stories, is as old as humanity itself. It’s our version of the village gathering around the camp fire and being entertained by storytellers. Greek myths, Roman legends, Anglo-Saxon Beowulf all started round an ancient camp-fire and they are still with us but now up on the big screen, part of a multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster season.
Cinema still has a huge part to play and it will always be with us but us film fans have to recognise that times change, the world moves on, and to a younger generation, a more mobile generation (in every sense) perhaps cinema isn’t always where they choose to consume movies.
For those brought up on You Tube channels and Facebook clips a two hour narrative can seem rather daunting and some stories are being told as short films viewed on mobile phones – miniature movies lasting no more than three or four minutes.
It can seem as if movie-making is returning to its roots but the film-makers making these shorts swiftly look for a bigger canvas and before you know it they are finding ways to transfer their stories onto the big screen.
At the end of the day it is human stories that will ultimately strike a chord with your audience. Dynamic editing and spectacular visuals can help bring people in but they won’t be anything more than an empty cinematic firework display unless they help illustrate a story that talk directly to people of all ages and backgrounds. This is true cinema and the best place to experience is on the big screen.