Tom Jolliffe hopes there’s an increased willingness to re-release old films at the cinema…
As we step out of lock-down and cinemas around the world re-open, we’re in a period where damage assessment is required. After all, for three months in the US, UK and China, some of the biggest world wide markets, audiences have been consigned to their home, in a market that seems to be increasingly more catered to home entertainment. Still, before all this madness, plenty of people were still flocking to the cinemas. Event movies offer a place for film fans to embrace the shared experience of whatever spectacle they’re seeing. Some films of course do better than others, and some indeed seem as if the whole prospect of a theatrical release seemed like a wasted exercise when a straight to PPV would have been more beneficial.
As we make tentative steps back to the big screen, at a period where many films have already been pushed back months, and in some cases, back to 2021, there was deemed a dearth in choice for film-goers. We await Tenet, the first big event in post-lockdown. There won’t be a huge deal to compete with that for a while either. Now it’s highly likely that audience numbers will be low. On a subdued cinematic restart, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back ended up emerging at the top of the box office on the small number of screens which have reopened. Indeed, as the demand will inevitably grow as people gain confidence, there will be a desire for choice, particularly as some may not be enamoured with Tenet, or indeed enough to watch several times. Part of a plan of action in the US and UK, and probably more territories, has been to play some old catalogue titles. Jurassic Park and Jaws are proving popular at drive-ins in the US.
Re-releases or special screenings aren’t a new thing by any means, and some cinemas are dedicated to playing oldies, but if you’re in the UK for example, you’ll struggle to find many places outside of London which do. In the big multiplex cinemas which previously could become bogged down by perhaps 5-6 big films eating up the space of a 10 screen cinema, it felt like a distinct lack of indie cinema made the choice a bit tired, and often, many of those fresh off the line blockbusters were bombing anyway. I went to see Rambo: Last Blood, a tired and lacklustre affair which seemed to tank in most places. It was opening day, prime spot in the evening but the screen was barely a quarter full (if that). Yet I’ve been to special (all too rare) re-release screenings for films like The Thing, Back to the Future, The Terminator, Die Hard, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Blade Runner and they were almost booked out. To see something historic, or classic given another run is great. When those brief appearances happen (usually coinciding with an anniversary) I’m usually game to go, often more so than with much of what’s current.
There’s no reason why almost every mainstream cinema couldn’t screen an older film or two on a weekly basis. The space is there, and minimal advertising is required. Some cinemas do already, particular the more indie chains, but it would be nice of those big chains, where there’s a cinema in almost every mid sized (And above) town could devote a couple of screenings to something that would undoubtedly drag people to the cinema. There’s been talk about whether cinemas might be in danger of dying out now, but honestly, the experience is incomparable. As an event, for cineastes, our most treasured film viewing memories are often tied in with day trips to the cinema. It’s a special time, with some films leaving more lasting memories I grant you.
It was a re-release of Blade Runner that gave me an opportunity to watch it on a big screen for the first time, which blew me away like the big screen experience rarely does these days. Sure I’d seen the visuals on TV, VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray. I’d heard the score. I’d been enamoured with the performances, but seeing it on a big screen in a packed (and almost entirely dazzled) theatre of publicans was astonishing. That first swell of Vangelis’s music kicking in, as we became enraptured by the films opening FX sequences, really brought the hairs up on the back of my neck. I felt the kind of butterflies I thought I never would in film again and yet, it was a film I’d seen 100 times already. For it to feel new again was like a dream. Likewise to open cinemas up to more films of the past could offer audiences a chance to see it for the first time, as originally intended.
Apart from anything, opening the choice can’t harm. An almost empty screening room is quite common these days, so it seems that there could be cause to make more indie cinema (recent A24 success helps), world cinema (Parasite’s success helps) and historic cinema available in the lineups. Whilst there does seem to be a current push for historic content and re-releases to fill the schedules, I hope it lasts beyond these moment of transition and stays when cinema is back to where it was before. There are certainly films I’d absolutely adore seeing on the big screen, without having to travel into London to do so.
What do you think about older films being re-released? Would you like to see more? Let us know in the comments below or on our social channels @flickeringmyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due in 2020/21, including The Witches Of Amityville Academy (starring Emmy winner, Kira Reed Lorsch), Tooth Fairy: The Root of Evil and the star studded action film, Renegades. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/