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New Forms Of Content Exhibition vs Old? Christopher Nolan Knocks Digital Filmmaking & Distribution. Where & How Are You Watching?

New Forms Of Content Exhibition vs Old? Christopher Nolan Knocks Digital Filmmaking & Distribution. Where & How Are You Watching?

“Film is the best way to capture an image and project that image. It just is, hands down. That’s based on my assessment of what I’m seeing as a filmmaker […] As far as innovation and experimentation, I’m in favor of any technological innovation, but it will always have to exceed what came before. None of the new technologies have done that […] I’ve gone to movie theaters and watched [my films]. Not enough filmmakers do that. And not enough people in our industry spend enough time in theaters and see the end result.”

Director Christopher Nolan (one of the last filmmakers to still shoot film exclusively) with a message for Hollywood and his fellow directors, in a wide-ranging conversation with The Hollywood Reporter‘s chief film critic Todd McCarthy at CinemaCon this week – the annual gathering of theater owners in Las Vegas.

His comments have reignited the long-running film versus digital debate – one that continues as the era of film prints reaches what looks to be its end, as the so-called ongoing digital revolution (production and distribution) asserts itself (certainly in IndieWorld, and catching on in Hollywood). 

In recent years, there’ve been numerous editorials by various industry insiders and outsiders, experts, declaring a shift in the way audiences are consuming content, and thus, how content creators are, or should be delivering their content.

Some have even been so bold as to predict the death of celluloid cinema as we’ve known it. Others have pointed towards a future in which the mobile web dominates, rendering the theatrical and television experiences near-obsolete.

I don’t think anyone really knows where we’re headed with absolute certainty. It seems that, right now, we’re all scrambling, throwing darts at ideas, hoping to land on something that works. I don’t think movie theatres and television are going to suddenly disappear; and I don’t know if the web is indeed the final frontier. I’d like to believe that all 3 can and will co-exist, with each serving some purpose that the other 2 can’t, or can’t quite as well.

But we can’t deny the effect the information superhighway and overall “digital revolution” has had on the way the world distributes and consumes media. 

What I’d like to know from all of you who frequent this blog is where and how most of you consume content.

I like to do this once every year or so, if only just to gauge any shifts in trends over time. 

Your responses to the 8 simple questions below will be very useful to us and much appreciated, which I will then compare to the previous years I’ve run this survey:

1. Approximately how many feature length films do you watch each month – cumulative (at the theatre, on TV, DVD rentals/purchase, on the web, iTunes, on your iPad, PDA, etc)? Feature-length (whether fiction or documentary or animation), not shorts.

2. How many of the number of films from your answer in the first question do you watch at the theatre?

3. How many of the number of films from your answer in the first question do you watch on TV (network or cable)?

4. How many of the number of films from your answer in the first question are DVD rentals/purchases?

5. How many of the number of films from your answer in the first question do you watch via the web (whether via iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon On Demand, YouTube etc, etc, etc)? Remember, feature-length films only.

6. How many of the number of films from your answer in the first question do you watch on handheld portable devices – iPhone, iPod Touch, PlayStation Portable, etc, etc, etc…?

7. Whenever choosing how and where you watch movies, which is of greater influence on your decision: price or convenience?

8. There are numerous web-based series. Do you watch any web-based series regularly, much like you tune in weekly to watch your favorite primetime television drama or comedy program?

That’s all for now. I may have some further questions which I’ll post in another poll; but these are a good start. Your responses are greatly appreciated.

But even if you’d rather not answer the questions, feel free to chime with your thoughts on Nolan’s defiance (if you will), and the overall shift in industry trends/standards.

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1. 15-25
2. 8
3. 10-15
4. 5
5. 15
6. 0
7. Both
8. None

I love film, the sound of the projector running 35mm, seeing that flicker is just magical. 4K digital projection is like watching a larger television program. Now that TV is now longer a 4:3 format and is shot and shown in widescreen, there is no difference. I shot my first short on super 8 but after blowing some much on the film and it never came out I went digital. I love digital for its one less item to think about. In the event I could or if money allows, then 35mm Arriflex film stock will be shot. There is a beauty to film and to quote Sofia Coppolla during Lost In Translation, while her father told her to just shoot on digital, "Film is Romance."


At this point because of the expense and diminishing amount of quality material. I am beginning to phase out going to theaters all together. It is just more fun to sit at home and watch something in comfort that way even if you don't enjoy the movie all you have really lost is time.


The majority of viewers couldn't couldn't care less whether Batman is shot on a Red or 35mm…it's all costumes and effects anyway…it's not like Nolan has the chops of a Tarkovsky or Bergman where it'd actually make a difference!


1. 20-30
2. less than 5
3. 5-10
4. 5-10
5. 15-20
6. 0
7. Both. Mostly dependent on what I want to watch and however I can see it.
8. No


I see his point about the new technology not being better than the old. It's just cheaper and more convenient. 2k, 4k, 8k or whatever hasn't beat or even matched film yet. It's got to be frustrating to see the work you chose to shoot beautifully on celluloid transferred into pixels on the screen all so the studios and theaters can save a few bucks. It gives you less power over your work. But Nolan is a big-budget director. He has the luxury to be a snob. If I were on his level, I'd probably be singing the same tune, but at the end of the day story is more important than its tools.


I suspect Christopher Nolan would be singing a different tune if he were just now starting off his career and was still trying to get financing and was shooting on shoe-string budgets.

Privileged and antiquated

Nolan's comments are both privileged and antiquated when you consider three of the five best cinematography nominees (including the winner GRAVITY) and six of the eight best picture nominees originated digitally on the Arri Alexa, a company that's doing the complete opposite of Nolan: taking the skills and tools they've developed over a century of emulsion based products to create leading edge digital imaging.

That's the antiquated part. The privilege comes into play when you consider how digital tools — capturing, projecting and distributing — have removed many of the barriers that restricted the wavelength of voices the world over (what would Nollywood be without digital cinema?).

MOTHER OF GEORGE, shot on a RED EPIC, looks better than any film Nolan has directed in his very successful life. Hell both Soderberg and Fincher shoot exclusively digital going back almost a decade.

Nolan is a very good filmmaker who's simply very WRONG on this point.



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