Exhibition by Jack Davis

In recent years there has been a drastic increase into the development of how films have been exhibited to audiences. Ever since the late 80’s, films have been seen by a wider range of audiences, appealing to the average consumer. However, with the growing popularity of digital cinema, distributors have been looking to add a unique selling point to how people view their films. This has been achieved through the complexity into how films are seen. IMAX and 3D have rejuvenated the idea of “cinema of Attractions”[1]. This has enhanced the exhibition of cinema to the point where viewers are becoming increasingly immersed within each film, as the idea of viewing a movie becomes today’s leisurely activity.

Since the mid 1980’s, exhibition has been made more conveniently available to both cinema goers and the average consumer. Theatres began opening in more easily accessible areas, such as, shopping centres and malls across the US[2]. This clean, close and convenient form of exhibition helped introduce the modern movie going experience that is still popular to this day. After gaining a comfortable status as being a market leader, Cinema had entered the new millennium with slight suspicion. This was the beginning of Digital Cinema. George Lucas was one of the pioneers of bringing digital cinema to the mainstream, with some digital scenes in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom menace (1999) and the full feature digital film of Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the clones (2002). The introduction of the films’ box office success allowed digital cinema to achieve the response it needed to overthrow film exhibition. Entering the new millennium with the preferred medium of digital cinema allowed more films to be distributed across the world and now, onto television as well. Television has become a strong competitor against modern digital cinema as the differences between the two formats become overwhelmed by their similarities. We are living in an age where the average consumer has availability to digital television, Blu-Ray and high definition viewing. This has enabled consumers to experience the feeling of being in a cinema in the comfort of their own home, relieving any previous thoughts towards “The cinema of Attractions”.

However, Digital Cinema Exhibition is currently attempting to regain its stability as the ideal viewing format. With innovations in novelties such as 3D and IMAX, Cinema has tried to outrun its domestic competitor, television. But, with its own gimmick’s, Home cinema exhibition has kept a strong following[3]. Digital advancements has meant both theatre and television screens could provide clearer and crisper images. With televisions now supporting 4K technology, IMAX has become cinema’s last attempt at trying to sustain their leadership over the exhibition market. IMAX allows audiences to immerse themselves into the cinematic experience that most high end blockbusters now require. This is what keeps the present but fleeting idea that “the cinema of attractions” remains alive to this day. So, is digital cinema good or bad? It has been regarded as, “perhaps the most important technological change in cinema since the introduction of the talkies in 1927.”[4] It has enabled film lovers and the average public alike to easily view their favourite films at the highest quality possible, in the comfort of their own home. Digital Cinema exhibition has added convenience and quality to both the production and exhibition elements of cinema. Before digital, it was harder to buy, own and collect good copies of films. But, with the sudden increase in what digital can offer the consumer, is analogue film exhibition still relevant?

Although the introduction of Digital cinema meant great things for film production, distribution and exhibition, physical reels of film became neglected as it soon became a dated medium. Exhibition of film has become a gimmick to most audiences, and a gift to a generation who grew up without it. I saw Kurosowa’s Ikiru (1952) on 35MM. I regarded this as more of an experience rather a casual screening. The fact you can see and hear the differences and identify that it was shown on film and not digitally adds a certain quality. You can feel the time, hard work and dedication put into making sure that the film was made and exhibited. I appreciated that experience as a filmic gift, due to the fact I probably won’t experience it again for a while. Exhibition of film has almost entirely become a novelty source of nostalgia. It’s a chance for us to feel more connected to the time of a movie’s original release. But, admittedly, that isn’t what makes a quality viewing experience. And like everyone else, I want to see a film in its best quality possible. Digital cinema and its restoration process means we live in a golden age where most films that have been made have been recovered and restored to its best quality possible. We can download and watch any film we want in the comfort of our own home, all thanks to digital cinema. We can see from this data[5] that the amount of digital screens have more than doubled in size, worldwide, since 2011. This only goes to prove my point that people no longer care for analogue film screenings but rather want the best digital quality possible.

Overall, we as an audience, still flock to the cinemas to see the latest films. This hasn’t changed since the introduction of digital technology. And with box office numbers rising each year, this change only helps the industry. But has it lost quality? It does feel that, although economically sound, the film industry faces risks of growing stale. Digital cinema has offered rapid advancements in technology in such a short time, meaning, we may begin to enter a period where the gimmicky novelty of “going to the pictures” may disregard what actually makes a quality film. Goodbye to Language (2014) is an excellent example of how to combine quality filmmaking with modern technology. I hope to think this sets an example for how the future of filmmaking should be both constructed and exhibited.


[1] Gunning, Tom, An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In) Credulous Spectator, Film Theory & Criticism, fifth edition, edited by Leo Braudy, and Marshall Cohen, 818-832. Oxford: Oxford University Press, August 6, 1998.

[2] Balio, Tino: Hollywood in the new Millennium (London: BFI, 2013) p.89

[3] “Netflix Subscribers Count 2016 | Statistic.” Statista. Accessed May 02, 2016. http://www.statista.com/statistics/250934/quarterly-number-of-netflix-streaming-subscribers-worldwide/ data showing the increase of Netflix subscribers since early 2013.

[4] 19, December. “Digital Movies Not Quite Yet Coming to a Theater Near You.” Los Angeles Times. 2000. Accessed May 02, 2016. http://articles.latimes.com/2000/dec/19/news/mn-1915.


[5]2015 MPAA market statistics – accessed 02 May 2016- http://www.mpaa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/MPAA-Theatrical-Market-Statistics-2015_Final.pdf


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