The Cinema Attic
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The Cinema Attic

The prospect of cinema in the UK reopening as early as July 2020 is a cause for reflection. During these unusual times regular film goers have taken to streaming to sate their film appetite.

The Telegraph’s film critic Robbie Collin appealed for people to return to the cinema in order to save cinema. Like cafes pubs and restaurants, a fear that some cinemas may never reopen is very real. Has the absence of going to the cinema changed how regular filmgoers watch films? Tilting them more to home viewing over cinemas so that when we get back to a kind of normality home viewing habits embed further. Is it inevitable that an audience grown used to home film viewing surge back to the cinema ? As they attempt to rediscover the joy of watching a film inside a cinema over watching one at home. For me this time of lockdown, unable to go to the cinema is a cause for reflection about the centrality of the cinema going experience. Are you lesser or greater a lover of films if you go to the cinema to see a film at the cinema ?

Is a greater weight given to your understanding of a film based on the way you watched it? This was brought out in an article by the sound designer Walter Murch, also in the Guardian, whose most revered film work was done on the film The Conversation. While Murch concedes that technically watching a film at home can be a similar to a cinema experience . What Murch puts great store by, is almost religious. The congregation of cinema goers, that seated audience watching the screen together. The ritual of planning to see a film, the anticipation, travelling too, then arriving at the cinema, all part of the experience. Sadly being shown to your seat by an usher holding a torch is no longer part of todays cinema experience. Nor is a projectionist, so when the film cuts out don’t bother looking behind you for a projectionists coming out to apologise. They won’t. The projection booth is empty the film is digital. However the audiences are real and in the Murch version they are communal, equal, all sat watching the film together. All equal except those seated in premiere seats.

As a film goer of many years I have experienced that unmistakable cinema experience. I have been to the great cathedrals of cinema, Odeon Leicester Square , Chinese cinema in Hollywood right through to the New Beverley in Los Angeles. No matter how sunny it is on holiday I seek out the cinema not just for the film but to admire the architecture of the cinema itself. All believers have doubts, sometimes they pass, other times they fundamentally change you. I no longer believe in the centrality of the cinema to watching films. You don’t need a cinema to worship films all you need are films. If those films are conjured up on the cinema screen, television or iPad, are they not all equal? Is a book better or worse for having read it on a Kindle rather than on paper? To focus too much on how you consume a film or a book for that matter and not on the content of what you have seen or read is a bit shallow in my view. But hang on, Star Wars, Bond or Blade Runner on a television screen not a cinema one. For these films, I agree cinema screens are better but for most films other ways of viewing are just as satisfying. Cinema is for spectacle for everything else you have a device at home to view it on. That maybe your television, laptop or tablet or if you desire go to the cinema. You choose. What we have now is more choice about how we view films but what remains is mild snobbery around how you watch a film. This attitude to be fair has been ebbing away and will continue to do so in the coming years. The lockdown has accelerated the growth of home viewing. When cinemas do eventually reopen, the large ones at first followed later by smaller art house cinemas people will go and for some films they will go in large numbers but the centrality of cinema to watching film will very slowly ebb away in the coming years. In twenty years time we will have churches as we will cinemas but how many and how often people go is debatable.

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Shining a light on cinema 

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Shane Dillon

Shane Dillon

Passion for films with a sprinkling of tech, social media and sport.

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