Thursday, August 28, 2014


So, last week I wrote about that fact that Jimmy Fallon is now making jokes about how backward thinking the film business is.

What saddened me was not that a comedian would find humour in our pain, but more that a mediocre comedian would discover this joke. How bad can it be if a late night yuckster has figured it out?

In the week that followed, I wondered whether I had been too harsh in my final assessment: that the movie business had become a bad joke.

Well, more news has arrived. And no-one is laughing anymore.

'The (USA Summer Film) season is expected to finish down 15 to 20 percent compared with 2013, the worst year-over-year decline in three decades, and revenue will struggle to crack $4 billion, which hasn't happened in eight years.'

One part of the article is so adorably pathetic, however, you will struggle to stifle a chuckle.
Laments one studio executive, "I wish I worked at Netflix."


And this is what it has come to in the upper echelons of the industry. No innovation. Just 'grass is greener' pining.

3D was supposed to be the prodigal son. A returned sideshow that had matured to the point of respectability. Because nothing says respectable like seven foot tall, blue people with Australian accents.

Never-the-less, the modernising of 3D was going to be the talisman that made cinema an 'experience' again. And yes, the audiences would flock back in droves, heralding a new Eden of theatrical film prosperity.


All these years later, after we have overcharged people to sit through bad movies, with even more expensive overbuttered popcorn, we are still not thinking of our audiences. The flaw is in where most analysis starts: the golden age of cinema. When cinema was respected. When children watched quietly, rather than talking and texting through the second act climax.

The golden age.

Oh, how quickly we forget our history.

The golden age of cinema, used as the thoroughly outdated yardstick of success, was based on a FALSE scarcity. Audiences had to go to the cinemas because you couldn't see the film by any other means. That the cinemas were the glorious theaters of yesteryear, red curtains and all, was a throw back to the times rather than any decision about audience engagement. If cinema owners thought you would watch a film in a card board box, with yesterdays popcorn, and pay $24 for the privilege, they would usher you to your seat in row F of the Westinghouse refrigerator packaging without hesitation.

And, as the cinema owners of the past realised they had a captive audience, the prices of cinema tickets went up, while the cinema-going experience became more and more generic and low frills.

This is the audience we have inherited today. Abused. Exploited. Pillaged. Ready to take control of their experience via the new delivery platforms like Netflix.

There is no loyalty from these audiences. Nor should there be, based on their continued treatment. And so the box office crumbles.

Surely, all is lost.

Or is it?

What if someone began to truly think about how to make cinema more engaging? More immersive. Preferably without needing cranium accessories to make it work.
What could an unfettered mind create in the cinema experience, if only thinking about making it better for audiences? Making the act of going to the cinema mean something, aside from just seeing the film earlier than everyone else.

What if?

And into the breach, appears Screen X.

Screen X is what occurs when someone actually starts to contemplate why people might go to the cinema. 270 degrees of screen, along the walls of the cinema, making you feel immersed in the action on the traditional primary screen.

But don't take my word for it. See for yourself.


Before the cynics chime in, yes, this exists. It's not like the overstated hype of Asimo. Screen X premiered at a huge film festival called Busan, in Korea late last year.

And suddenly, there is a point to being in the darkened theater again. This is what an audience will respond to.

You can keep masticating the same old cinema distribution model, squeezing every last nutrient until its over. But do you really want to compete with Netflix the day 'simultaneous release' arrives?

Or, you can innovate and give cinema audiences a reason to walk into that hallowed ground again.

Yes, I know it will be painful to evolve. But the well-worn path is fading very quickly into oblivion. It's time to adapt or fail. Be the piper, or be the rats.

Is it about what you want, or your audience?

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