Welcome back to Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club. This month my good friend, Bill, has some questions for you.
The world of home theatre has one considerable advantage over the antiquated days of movie-going. Choice. Today’s streaming and downloads offer tens of thousands of options from the entire history of the cinema. For less than the price of a single admission to a movie theatre, the whole family can enjoy a digitally preserved movie on a sizeable screen with optimal sound. What’s to complain about then?
Four Differences Between Your Home Theatre and Cinema Going Experience
1. When I refer to the cinema, I write exclusively of films being projected onto a movie screen, not the viewing of digital files. so the first thing you are losing is the flicker. With film, you are in darkness for a measurable percentage of the films running time, giving the viewing of a film a dreamlike flavor. Watching digital entertainment is closer to being hypnotized than dreaming. You are watching a glorified form of television, whether it is in a former movie theatre or on your home theatre set-up.
2. No matter how large or small your home screen is, you cannot approximate the ratio of a 6-foot human being to the 30-foot high movie screen. You can sit up close to a 40-inch monitor so the picture occupies nearly your entire field of vision, but your size will always dominate the television. At the movies even when those with smaller screens, you are physically dominated by the images you are viewing.
3. The movies themselves, whether claiming to be restored or simply preserved, rarely have identical visual information as to their original release prints. BluRays are much brighter than the 35 mm originals, and the clarity reveals things that were better left obscured…hair dyes, bad make-up. painted skies, etc. Cheap, grainy exploitation films can now look like high budget mainstream latex makeovers. These digital jobs might last longer than the old film stock, but you are not seeing a film, but an inexact copy of the film.
4. One of the biggest drawbacks to the home theatre experience, which had its inception in the 1970s with the home box office and video rentals, is the dissolution of the timeline of film culture. In the days when television was television and cinema was cinema, we knew when we were watching an old movie on tv or a classic film at the art house. We were aware that we were trespassing against the timeline. For a number of reasons, it is always best to see films at the time they are released.
There is much to enjoy in films that were made before our time, but those who saw Taxi Driver in 1976 at a luxury movie theatre saw a different movie than the person who selects it from the Netflix action menu in 2020. In fact, a personal assessment of films often has a lot to do with when in their film going life they saw it. For example, my favorite Howard Hawks western is Rio Bravo while people five years older than me usually prefer Red River. People thirty years younger than me might be ardent fans of Euro-Westerns and have no interest in seeing any American western. I came to the European auteurs in the late sixties, so I prefer Fellini’s Satyricon to his 8 ½, and Bergman’s Persona to The Seventh Seal. But I saw all Sam Peckinpah’s and John Cassevetes’ films in real-time, so they are among my favorite directors because I have lived with them and in them.
What do you think? How has your film-watching experience changed with the transition from film to digital, from public cinemas to home cinema? Is the situation today better or worse than it was yesterday?
Thank you, Bill! Check out his blog at cinemaafterlife.movie.blog