When you plonk down your $12 at the local multiplex, the expectation is that for the next couple of hours you are not only going to be taken to another world, you are going to be part of an event that can’t be duplicated at home. In theory, anyway. However, with the rise of digital prints and in some cases, even Blu-rays, being shown instead of traditional film prints, Christopher Nolan warns that the cinema experience is being devalued to a possible point of no return.
Speaking at BFI London Film Festival’s LFF Connects talk, the filmmaker — who most recently shot “Interstellar” on 35mm and 70mm IMAX, and presented 35mm screenings of short films by the Quay Brothers — sounded the alarm about the state of going to the movies.
“The idea it’s dying as an experience or undervalued by younger cinema goers is complete bollocks. But the experience has to be great or, of course, people won’t come,” he added.
Nolan does have a point, particularly at a time when recreating a top-tier movie watching environment at home is within financial reach for many. And he points a finger toward smaller theaters and their tendency to show Blu-rays on the big screen. “One of the terrible things happening with independent distribution in the States is there is a level of Blu-Ray distribution that is going on,” Nolan said. “Theatre owners should be saying no to that. Exhibition shouldn’t work in such a way that you present the worse possible version of the film until someone in the audience complains. Exhibitors need to put their best foot forward and have standards. No cinema should be showing a consumer grade format to an audience. At least, they shouldn’t be doing it without saying to the public this is best we can get.”
Indeed, I’ve personally seen things go a level lower, when I showed up to an art house for a screening of Stanley Kubrick‘s “Barry Lyndon,” only to find they were projecting a particularly pixellated DVD copy of the movie.
“Well, we’re paying the same for a cinema ticket as we were before, so where are all these marvelous savings [from digital projection]? I love what Quentin Tarantino is doing with ‘The Hateful Eight,’ putting 70mm projectors in cinemas in North America for the original run of his film. He’s said it’s difficult, but it’s worth it,” the director said.
And while some may tout the cost-effectiveness and ease of digital filmmaking in general, Nolan isn’t buying it. “For years, filmmakers who wanted to shoot digital would promote the fact that the cameras are lighter, easier or whatever, but my response would always be, ‘If David Lean, or rather David Lean’s crew, can put a 65mm in the desert, why should I care that your camera is lighter, unless you’re doing something with it you couldn’t do,’” Nolan said. “But if what you’re doing is traditional film craft, the audience shouldn’t care what it cost, what the budget of the film was, or how difficult it was to make or how difficult it is for the theater houses to present the film.”
Lots of food for thought from Nolan. What do you think? Are movie tickets these days worth the cost versus the experience? What needs to change? Share your thoughts below. [THR/Screen Daily/Indiewire]