Re-releases v New Releases: Cinema isn't dead, it just lost its way.

August 1, 2019

 

I've been going to see a lot of re-releases recently, and I've found myself more drawn to these than a lot of the newer movies on offer at the cinema. I booked tickets for Apocalypse Now yesterday, and on Tuesday my partner and I went to see The Matrix for its 20th Anniversary. I took my daughter to see Jaws on the big screen too. In fact, I've been to the cinema three times in the last two months, and two of those were re-releases.

 

This got me thinking, why am I so drawn to them and not to the more, for lack of a better term, "modern" offerings? You could make a case for almost any reason, and of course the obvious one is that in an age of superheroes, franchises, reboots, sequels and the like, all sense of originality has been sucked from the screens. And that's certainly a part of it, no doubt, but I don't think franchise fatigue is fully to blame.

 

You could argue that the overuse of CGI and the fact that almost every movie - or at least, what feels like every movie - one of the three cinemas closest to me offer are big budget action blockbusters has made me pine for smaller, more intimate movies. And I'm sure that comes into play too. But I don't think blockbuster fatigue is fully to blame, either.

 

You could even argue that I've just become more interested in the type of films cinemas don't show anymore, seeking out movies that don't meet with modern audience expectation, and I have no doubt that is a key reason too. Most of the films I watch and enjoy these days are discovered via the internet, searching online for information, and local cinemas just don't show them.

 

And, of course, there's a definite argument to be made that going to see a film I already know or care for on the big screen is a "safer" bet than a new one. After all, I already know i like it or am going to enjoy it. But there's definitely more to it than that.

 

I love the cinema. When the lights go down and the projector kicks in, there's nothing quite like watching a film unfold on the big screen. It's spectacular, even when the movie isn't. An audience can ruin a viewing, sure, but overall its a positive experience. Going to the cinema has always been my favourite pass-time. Even when I was a kid. And while all of the above certainly factor into my leanings toward re-releases over new releases, there's one key reason why I'd prefer to go see Jaws or The Matrix than I would, say, Spider-man: Far From Home or... ugh, The Lion King.

 

For a long while now, likely going on a decade, I haven't really left the cinema feeling elevated. At least, not when seeing a new release. In fact, I reckon I can pin-point the last time I came out of a brand-new film with a genuine sense of "wow-ness", and it was in 2012 when The Avengers came out. Seeing those characters put together on screen like that was a genuine marvel (I thank you) to behold. It was new and fresh and unlike anything that had come before. Since then the most I can muster is "yeah, that was good" when I talk about a new release at the cinema. It isn't that I don't like them, it's that they're just too damn similar to what I've already seen.

 

I appreciate if you go to smaller cinemas, or you're lucky enough to have chain cinemas that show decent movies near you then you're likely not going to relate to this. But for me, I'm so fed up with feeling simply satisfied with the movies on offer. I want to feel awe-struck.

 

That's why watching Jaws on the big screen is more preferable. I leave Jaws gobsmacked. I knew that film was great, but watching it up there on the cinema screen I'm reminded of just how great. Same with The Matrix. Same with many others.

 

These days, my awe-struck moments from new viewings come, by and large, from the comfort of my own home. Discovering William Friedkin's Sorcerer, tracking down Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room, switching off the lights and watching Carlos Brooks' Burning Bright. The cinema hasn't lost its magic, it just doesn't show the movies that feed it. Ari Aster's Midsommar came close to delivering that kind of experience, and perhaps that's partly why I liked it, but these movies are too few and far between.

 

The cinema has become a haven for big budget blockbusters, "safe" movies made with as little risk as possible. I love the MCU, don't get me wrong, but it's hardly running through my mind in the way Jennifer Kent's The Babadook or Robert Eggers' The Witch did when I first saw them. And it's not blowing me away like Jurassic Park did when I first saw it... or The Matrix... I suppose there's always Mad Max: Fury Road. But that was five years ago now.

 

I don't know mean to be so negative. I still love the cinema. And I'm more than happy to go see whatever is on offer. But so long as the more interesting, more inventive and more original movies are being sidelined to limited screenings or simply thrown off to streaming services, I'm going to be somewhat resentful of the less interesting, less inventive and far less original movies taking up the spaces.

 

The cinema is magic, but a good movie is too. And when you put that combination together, the outcome is incredible. No matter how many times you've seen the movie before.

 

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© Alex Secker 2018