Tenet director Christopher Nolan is unashamedly pure in his outlook on movies and their natural place in the world as a big screen experience. However it is a fact that since 2015 globally more people have watched a movie on a mobile device than in theaters. Whereas my entire teenage years were spent at the cinema, at least until I became old enough to go to bars, the callow youth of today frequently look at a cinema the same way they look at a cassette deck, then go back to watching TikTok videos on their cellphones.
Add to this mix that 4K, even 8K OLED and QLED screens are constantly falling in price. Whereas anyone with a 55″ TV was King Of Screens until around 2017, nowadays 65″ to 85″ are more common in the cinephiles home. Home cinemas have moved from seldom used spaces in the homes of the mega-rich to a true middle class indulgence as HD projectors have tumbled in cost. Add in Dolby Surround sound, sub-woofers that shake your intestines and annoy the neighbors and no requirement to re-mortgage your house to buy some snacks, and it is not hard to see why these trends are here.
When you look at the pace of technology driven change, and then examine how some of these changes have been supercharged by COVID19 (bye-bye bricks and mortar retail) then it is difficult not to form the opinion that some of these directors may be clinging onto a sinking ship.
When one considers the movies of Denis Villeneuve, normally in conjunction with world-class Roger Deakins cinematography, from Sicario to Blade Runner 2049, from the upcoming Dune to Arrival, it would be easy to imagine he is a champion of the pure cinema experience. You would be wrong.
Roger Deakins has a podcast – Team Deakins – and Villeneuve was open about cinemas challenges and stated, categorically, that any screen is better than no screen:
“Roger made jokes about my iPhone. For people who don’t know. Roger was traumatized that I had ‘The Thin Red Line’ from Terrence Malick on my iPhone and Roger thought it was horrific. Me, I thought it was cool because I could take the movie with me. It’s not the same, but the thing is… I want to fight for the big screen, but a lot of my cinematic experiences have actually been on television.
I discovered ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ on television, and I later realized I discovered ‘Blade Runner’ on television. I discovered a lot of movies that were massive influences on television, or, like most Ingmar Bergman films, I discovered on VHS. And still, through these movies, they had a massive impact. All that debate on the size of the screen…because I am a filmmaker and I just love films.
I love the experience of being in a cinema with an audience but I think it feels more important that people see them. If in the future people are going to watch more movies on television, that’s fine. The films that I remember from my childhood are from watching them on TV and not the cinema experience.”
If you aren’t a COVID-sceptic then it’s easy to see the ramifications of the pandemic continuing to be felt for some time, with movie theaters as one of the worst affected types of venue. Will the likes of Christopher Nolan be forced to accept their beloved medium is potentially in decline? Will more emerge with the pragmatic view of Villeneuve?
Will we ever see Dune on the big screen at this rate?