Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Special event film screenings grow with audiences and theaters alike

Archipelago Cinema, via the KT Wong Cinema

In a little over two weeks, Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts, and insiders hope that raises the tide for the whole film industry. Like Jurassic World this summer, a new Star Wars movie is a cultural event, and although that usually spells huge profits for theaters and distributors, the movie business can't rely on massive, polarizing tentpole twice a year. Instead, in that spirit, theaters have turned to immersive screening events to drive interest in heading to the movies.

You might be familiar with some of these screenings as they've popped up around the country, like Alamo Drafthouse's poolside screening of Jaws, but the writers at The Conversation dove deeper, looking at these "live exhibition" events as an outgrowth of audience-focused film culture. Novelty screenings have engaged viewers since the earliest nickel theaters and drive-ins, and the rise of social media and affordable technology have made unusual events like Secret Cinema more desirable – and profitable.

As an example, the article focuses on a recent orchestrated tour of THX 1138 (incidentally, as with Star Wars, a George Lucas joint), which deepened emotional response to the film while generating new interest in it. The technique has also been used for social impact, as with a particularly harrowing screening of The Battle of Algiers run by Secret Cinema.

DC is getting wind of these too: in addition to themed outdoor screenings during the summer and special occasions like the Back to the Future parties last month, the AFI Silver in Silver Spring often plays silent films with live accompaniment. If this trend really signals where the big bucks in film will come from, color us interested in those city-block sized events.

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