Morpheus on… The Cinema – R.I.P.

…at least, for grown-up English-speakers. Let us examine the history…

All of my life – 63 years – they have been reading the last rights over the cinema. This was due to the advent of television.

However, the old medium stubbornly refused to die.

Initially, the film industry retaliated against the new medium by introducing new tech (including some that had been around for years, but which had not been widely used due to expense, given that at that time cinema had no rival) like multi-channel stereo, widescreen, high-definition, 3D – and greater use of colour.

But it soon discovered that even WITHOUT these new attractions, demand for its services were as strong as ever.

This was because TV was limited to small, black and white, low-definition images, mono sound – and moderate budgets.

And thus over the next six decades, cinema hardly progressed at all. Digital SFX and projection, steadicam and drone photography – that was about it.

On the other hand, TV grew from a small, flickery, rounded, 4:3, low-def, black and white picture – with audio emanating from one puny little five-inch speaker on the side – to a giant, smooth, rectangular, 16:9, hi-def, colour picture – with huge, six-channel stereo surround sound.

In short, telly has CAUGHT UP.

But the thing that has really nailed it is the PRICE. Back in the Fifties, those tiny TVs were hand-assembled, one component at a time – which meant that they cost over a month’s wages for the average buyer. So most people rented.

However, thanks to modern manufacturing tech they can now BUY a 55″ LED, with a 150W 6-channel sound system, for little more than a WEEK’S wages.

Small wonder that instead of sitting in a dark room surrounded by strangers, being bombarded by sound systems that usually have the volume way too loud on the outer channels, Western adults are now staying HOME – where their movie starts when THEY are ready (and can be paused while they take a leak, or get themselves some CHEAP food and/or beverages) and they can watch it in their PANTS. Or naked.

Furthermore, if something fruity happens on-screen, they can satisfy their stirrings with their companion, or if alone enjoy a selfie, either of which if done in the cinema are at best going to get them ejected – or at worst, land them in jail (just talk to Paul Reubens or Fred Willard).

Also, back in those Fifties, the only movies the cinema would allow TV companies to show were ten-year-old-plus programme fillers.

It wasn’t until the Seventies that they reduced the lag to three years and began leasing ALL movies, including classics.

And today, the lag is just ONE year for subscribers to HBO, Max, DiggerMovie, etc.

Reducing to NO lag at all with most movies, for subscribers to Netflix, Hula or other streaming services.

So why would ANYONE visit the cinema these days?

Well, for the answer to that, we need to divide the cinemagoers of the World into three groups…

Group One: the United States Of America. Just them.

Group Two: the United Kingdom Of Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The non-US English-speaking World.

And Group Three: the Rest Of The World.

Let’s take them first; most of them are self-sufficient, so this piece doesn’t apply to them (but they won’t be reading this anyway, as it’s in English).

Italian movies have traditionally been made without live sound – then had Italian, German, French, Spanish or American dialogue added in post- for those countries.

With French movies being recorded live in French, leaving foreign countries to dub or subtitle them. Like with everything else, the French attitude being – “This film is French and if you don’t like it, you can kiss my French artichoke, monsewer.”

While China, India and Russia were and are easily big enough to support major film industries exclusively for their domestic cinemagoers (most of whom cannot afford big TVs anyway).

However, the same is certainly not true for Group Two; the English-speaking, non-US countries.

In the Fifties (once again) and early Sixties, Hollywood poured money into the old British film industry. And provided the Brits put a token Yank in their movies, they were quite happy to distribute them Stateside. But NO MORE.

Today, things have CHANGED. America has pulled up its drawbridge. Now that the Group Two grown-ups have forsaken the cinema, it only makes movies for its home audience. Therefore it is now almost impossible to get a British film distributed in America – and tragically, IN BRITAIN TOO.

This last is because Hollywood movies are widely PROMOTED (with some movie’s promotion budgets being more than their production costs) and like their American counterparts, British distributors also want bums on seats.

Of course, all of the above only applies to movies made for ADULTS. Most Western films are now made for KIDS – and are shown in shopping centre Cineplexes, where said adults dump them while they go shopping – or send them, when they want some Mummy And Daddy time.

Fact is these days, Group Two’s facilities are mainly used by Group One (Hollywood) as outsources. Britain does good miniatures, music and SFX, Canada’s post- facilities are peerless and New Zealand has spectacular landscapes. Whilst in Group Three, Eastern Europe are good at constructing large, fantastical sets – cheaply.

So while Britain’s Lottery Fund is still financing British movies made for adults, even they know that – like with their customers – it is money down the DRAIN.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cy Quick on April 23, 2016 at 12:29 am

    This is a very interesting, comprehensive review of both the history as well as the current situation in the industry. I like SF movies (NOT horror garbage).

    I liked the movie about the famous bloke who worked out the computer stuff and became a multi-billionaire. I forget his name.

    Aside from extra instalments of Star Wars (which I like fine) I forget the names of some other SF movies that I have seen recently and liked because they are seen to be based in real NASA technology roots.

  2. Posted by Vincent on April 23, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Steve Jobs? That’d be “Steve Jobs” – directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin. It should pop up on HBO here, around the Winter Solstice. Or if you’re referring to Steve Zuckerberg, it’d be “The Social Network” – another Sorkin script, this time directed by David Fincher. That one was on TV here a while back…

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