I read this twice with great sadness. Sure this was perhaps in someway inevitable but it doesn’t me a film lover has to like it! I like seeing films shot on film projected on a film projector. I like seeing digital films projected digitally. But with this announcement by Fox I sadly think other major studios will follow. In a perfect word both would exist but digital is cheaper and simpler.
Paul Allen of Microsoft fame bought and upgraded Seattle’s 40+ year-old, standalone Cinerama theatre several years back. Recently, he closed it for a few months and, among other things, installed digital projection capabilities.
He hired a wonderful general manager last year who’s in charge of programming. Inbetween first-run bookings of films like “The Avengers”, screenings of Hollywood classics such as “The African Queen” are also shown. They “lend” their theatre to local film festivals (SIFF, the Jewish Film Festival, local gay groups). Last month, they inaugurated their own Science Fiction Film Festival, purportedly an annual event, and besides bringing the Alloy Orchestra back to town to accompany the restored “Metropolis”, Paul Allen’s own sparkling new print of “2001” was projected over 3 days for the first time anywhere. For over two weeks, single screenings of two dozen titles (“The Wrath of Khan”, “E.T.”, “Close Encounters”, the original “War of the Worlds”) were offered to Seattle audiences. By God, they even booked Tarkovsky’s “Solaris”. All on film, many in 70mm.
I attended a number of the events. On the final night, I went with friends to see “Clockwork Orange”. It was quite nostalgic for me since I originally saw Clockwork during its initial release in this very theatre, stoned on acid with nowhere else to sit except for the front row!
Near the end of the screening, the sound suddenly cut out. It was the scene where Alex is locked in the upstairs room while Beethoven’s Ninth blasts from below. The image was there; the audio was not. Within seconds, the audience grew restive. Several shouted out, “Sound!”. From my seat, I could turn around and see into the projection booth. A panicky projectionist was talking on his phone, peering into the projector, obviously flummoxed.
Half the audience began humming the Beethoven score and, after a minute or two, the screen darkened and the house lights came on. Something was amiss with this particular reel of film. I watched the guy in the booth rewind and spool the flawed reel onto the second projector. He lowered the lights and started over. We now had sound but the reel was slightly off-kilter to the degree that we all could see the actual soundtrack on the far leftside of the screen. I turned in my seat again to witness the projectionist as he applied a strip of masking tape on the glass window of the projection booth, successfully eliminating the visual soundtrack from the majestic Cinerama screen.
I imagine this type of problem will never occur with digital projection. Some other types of problems, I suppose, could crop up. I don’t know. While digital projection is the next step and mishaps like the one we experienced last week are avoided, there was something special and a bit delightful about the audience gamely adapting to the problem by providing its own soundtrack with a rousing, improvised rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth.
I imagine this type of problem will never occur with digital projection. Some other types of problems, I suppose, could crop up.
You dont know half of it.Llike the theater were the pop corn oil made the image green for days until they finally figured what the problem was. And they kept charging admmission.
Film may become a niche market, and not used for the major film companies but people are still going to be doing analog, despite the times.
You may not find this “serious” (see my latest post today re: Lomokino films premiering in June in Madrid), but I think it’s evidence that film will survive in some form and that while you will not be seeing blockbusters made with it, there will be interesting things in smaller and less profitable quarters which will continue to use and explore it.
Sure . . . not EVERYTHING is going to be completely digitized. But film may become a high end nostalgia item sorta like vinyl.
As long as it survives and people can use it, I don’t care what people think it becomes. Seriously.
I have an enameling kiln and I have made things with copper and silver and enamel. Enameling is a very old art. It may not be what people use for much of anything anymore (though some jewelry is still produced with it, especially in the East like in China – cloisonne in particular), but I’m so glad it’s an art which has not been lost to time.
I don’t see film as being lost to time. At least, not in my lifetime.
“I don’t see film as being lost to time. At least, not in my lifetime.” I hope so Odilonvert.
Last night I went to see The Avengers on film downtown at a Cineplex theatre here in Toronto. Before the film began an advert hosted by the chain owner talked about how they will eventually be going 100% digital by 2013. The ad was a few minutes long and basically defined film as being around forever and not really evolving much. I threw up in my mouth a little.
A lot of digital film projections I’ve seen look noticeably pixelated. But that’s the only issue I have with digital, I am untainted by nostalgia.
Ah Peter, the switch to digital really all comes down to a business decision. Businesses like to publicly pat themselves on the back when they can save money, and make MORE money at the same time.
Read this recent article from the New York Times about the Lomography “movement.” It may seem like a fad, but many people who don’t want film to go away will continue to use it for their own work. As far as motion picture films are concerned, yes movie studies have made a business (i.e. money) decision to not use it anymore, but you will still see motion picture film being used by independent artists who love the medium and can’t conceive parting from it.
To me, niche market is better than utter death.
There is hope. :)
(at this moment I am having a flash forward experience of seeing myself reading these bright and cheery words and shaking my head bitterly, but I’m going to actively think of that thought as humorous)
The LA Weekly had a good article on this last month.MOVIE STUDIOS ARE FORCING HOLLYWOOD TO ABANDON 35MM FILM
The article mentions that there is a ‘war’ going on. Actually, there is no war. Digital has won. 90% of all major and minor theatre chains will have digital projection next year. And 99% of distributors will offer digital formats. Those that don’t [small distributors] will go away. The cost is expensive but the studios will help pay for the upgrades over the next two years. [After that they will not pay].
This does not mean film will be dead; some movies will still be shot on film. [Christopher Nolan only shoots film]. But it means those movies will be tranferred to digital, which has been happening for a while.
Archives like UCLA will still have prints and negatives – so few of the old classic films will disappear.
^ yes exactly. Museums and archives will be the protectors of film.
Thank god I live near: Film Forum, MoMa, Lincoln Center and the Lafayette.
The idea that digital projection is cheaper is a fallacy. It’s easier, yes. It’s quicker, yes. But the cost of purchasing and maintaining digital projectors are enormous, especially when you have to keep replacing them when they break down. It may be cheaper for the studios but the costs are not going away – they’re just being transferred to the exhibitors.
“I imagine this type of problem will never occur with digital projection. Some other types of problems, I suppose, could crop up.”
I went to see the Avengers this weekend. During the trailers the image on screen was slightly blurry (a little like watching a 3D projection without the glasses), and after a few minutes a manager came into the theater and announced to the packed crowd they were going to have to restart the system. This happened a couple of times, for a total delay of about 15minutes before they were able to start the film. Apparently they were having “issues with Windows”. Like the few times I’ve been subjected to projection issues, not a huge deal, but just goes to show you how digital is most assuredly not perfect.
I will miss film if it does go the way of the dodo, but there is something to be said for a pristine digital image to be honest. I still to this day remember one of the first digital projections I went to, Steven McQueen’s “Hunger” at a London ICA theater. The image quality during some of the scenes was just glorious (which can be bad in some of the prison cell scenes…)
It may be cheaper for the studios but the costs are not going away – they’re just being transferred to the exhibitors.
Ha ha! Deluded exhibitors…
Certainly it’s a sad day in a timeline which spans 120 or so years (projected film). The analogy to vinyl may be correct for older films, but new films won’t have the luxury of film, the film labs are all closing or closed (refitted to digital intermediate and visual effects pods), Kodak has gone bankrupt (the Apple of its day), other film companies will probably follow suit. The theater owners won’t care to run prints, except a few cinephile houses in each city. Eventually, we’ll rely on Museums and University film programs, which may discontinue screenings due to cost as well. Who knows. In our lifetime we’ll see old films digitized of course, but visibility of prints in theaters will certainly be less. Some modern directors still like to shoot film, but not very many. No, I’m afraid it’s all zeroes and ones from now on. Merely a new era, I suppose, but I hate media corporate decision-makers, I really do. Long live that weird cellulose stuff with multiple layers and grain swimming like so many uncountable eggs and fishy sperm. Press the button, raise the damper, start the show.
On a related front, recently Martin Scorsese once again sang the praises of 3-D and predicted the future of films is in 3-D. He and Ang Lee lamented at a panel last week that unfortunately young independent film makers and low-budget directors won’t be able to use 3-D for their films due to equipment and cost. On the 3D process, Scorsese says:
“It’s like seeing a moving sculpture of the actor and it’s almost like a combination of theater and film combined and it immerses you in the story more,” Scorsese said. “I saw audiences care about the people more . . . The minute it started people wanted three things: color, sound and depth,” Scorsese said. “You want to recreate life.”
Really Martin, really? Is life merely color, sound, and depth? And since when do artists pander to general taste? Too much cocaine in the early days.
The only thing of value in Scorsese’s songs these days are his commitments to film preservation (in that regard, digital will never replace film). Everything else this guy is selling are goods I have no use for.
Recreate life? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
That is the Bazin trap, and Krakauer’rs, both of which were the standard film theory in Scorcese’s film school days in the 60s. Since then other ideas have become current. Thank God. As if film had anything to do with reality. As I said in theory class- “You want reality, open a window”.
Either open a window, or try to make a Frankenstein monster.