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  1.  (2113.1)
    For the last few years, the San Francisco International Film Festival has been bringing in outside speakers to offer observations about the State Of Cinema. Previous speakers have included critic B. Ruby Rich, actress Tilda Swinton, and animation director Brad Bird.

    This year's speaker was Kevin Kelly, he of The WELL and WIRED magazine fame. I note with embarrassment that the theater was maybe over a third and definitely less than half full.

    Starting from his motto "Listen To The Technology," Kelly applied current technological developments to the future of cinema. Among his thoughts:

    *Home entertainment systems will come close but won't surpass the experience of being in a theater. Not only is there the communal aspect, there's also the development of new theater technology such as 3-D.

    *The advent of YouTube has broken filmmaking out of the creative mediocrity born of the Hollywood system. Sure there are tons of crappy videos on YouTube. But there are also newer and fresher videos that could not have arisen in the Hollywood system.

    *Films are moving away from the either/or structure of feature-length (90 minutes to 2 hours) and short films (films running less than an hour). Given the existence of Hulu and YouTube, he sees films in the future having 100-hour running lengths (e.g. LOST) and even ones lasting a few seconds at most.

    *Video games represent a creative middle ground between the fictional story format of feature films and the quick in and out structure of advertisements and short films.

    *The changing video literacy of the current generation heralds a Gutenberg shift that will alter the way information is transmitted. Print won't disappear, but its primacy will lessen.

    There was a lot more to the talk, and frankly I'm relying on my poor analog memory. But this post will give you a taste of Kelly's talk.
  2.  (2113.2)
    Home entertainment systems will come close but won't surpass the experience of being in a theater. Not only is there the communal aspect, there's also the development of new theater technology such as 3-D.

    I can't agree. I bought a projector two years ago and haven't been to the theater since. The 'communal' aspect along with the growing cost of movie-going are primes I don't do it any longer. Example; I just saw 'Cloverfield' and I don't feel as suckered having spent 2 bucks on it. If I had spent 9 dollars to see it I would just wanted to kill someone. 3-D technology is not going to lower the cost, either.

    Plus I can have movie parties, serve food and drink beer, all in the privacy of my own house. I just can't agree with him on this one...
    • CommentTimeMay 6th 2008
    Communal? Being jammed into a room with 300 half retarded teenage assholes that don't understand the word "quiet" you normally couldn't pay me to interact with surrounded by the smell of artificial butter and rotting candy?

    And my home theater sounds as good if not better than the one at my local theater. I'm sure in many cities this isn't the case but around here the sound systems were built in the 80's. I can beat that.
  3.  (2113.4)
    Another hit from the guy who tried to sell everyone on push technology in the 90s.
    • CommentTimeMay 6th 2008
    Weren't we already supposed to be riding high on digital projectors by now?
    • CommentTimeMay 6th 2008

    In theatres? At expense to the owners? Doubtful. All they care about is profit. Example: our local theatre chain (Marcus fuckin' Theatres) has refused the past few Paramount films because they haven't gotten a big enough cut of the ticket sales. Would they really spend the money to upgrade to digital when they figure the acne-ridden 15-year-olds won't tell the difference because they're too busy talking to their friends or making out.
    • CommentTimeMay 6th 2008 edited

    Remember when there weren't any OMGMEGAPLEXES? The largest theaters had maybe 5 or 6 theaters? People didn't start leaving those for the megas because they couldn't tell the difference. People felt "fancy" going there. At least in my neighborhood. "Wow! These Stadium theaters are the new thing, huh?"

    If they want ticket sales to rise, they need to invest with the rest of the industry in better equipment. Who wants to deal with annoying movie goers, expensive food and that stupid circle in the upper right corner just before every freaking scene change when you have the HD Plasma at home in your living room?

    That reminds me: people can see the difference between digital and HDTV, too. :D

    Edit: Don't mean to sound all bent out of shape there. I just want my god damn jetpack digital projection.
  4.  (2113.8)
    I must say that I still favor the theater experience. I like audience reaction and feeling like I'm going to an event. Digital projection is definitely the way to go. Seeing Revenge of the Sith was AWESOME because it was shot in HD and projected digitally (yeah I know it sucked though). I'd give the theater experience a good more twenty years of limping before it needs a wheelchair. Most people can't afford HDTVs or projectors (plus they just want somewhere to go on a Saturday night).

    Plus, just wait for James Cameron's next 3-D features. You will not want to miss Battle Angel. A frame hasn't been shot yet but I anticipate that it will be the next Matrix.

    @Miranda's Eyes: Kevin Kelly left out the advent of "prosumer" technology like this:

    Without this stuff I couldn't afford to make short films. (The downside is a lot of shitty filmmakers are watering down the indie world.)

    @rickiep00h: Really? I worked at a few theaters and was even assistant manager at one so I know that theaters make all their money from concessions.
    • CommentTimeMay 6th 2008

    I'm am 100% serious. Marcus thought Paramount was being greedy, Paramount thought Marcus was being greedy, and I didn't get to see goddamned Sweeney Todd because of it. Or Cloverfield (well... right away. They did finally open up like a month and a half later...)

    Also, I can't afford an HDTV, but I bought one anyway. I love it more than I love my family.


    I do remember that, and I know and love the "artsy" theatre we have about 4 blocks from here that won't play the popular crap. But my point is that the whole downfall of the industry is the target 14-23 (or whatever arbitrary age group they have is) audience. Most of the time they don't care. Hell, explaining to people what the difference between HD and SD TV is is like pulling teeth around here. Most people just don't care enough to make it profitable, that's all I'm saying.

    And unfortunately, Robert Rodriguez and George Lucas don't have enough pull to get people on the digital bandwagon.
      CommentAuthorAdmiral Neck
    • CommentTimeMay 7th 2008 edited
    In the UK we're fairly lucky. In London Odeon cinemas are switching to default digital projection, which should hopefully be the thin end of the wedge (though I appreciate there is a long long way to go yet). If I have a choice of cinema chains to see a movie, I'll choose Odeon immediately. This year I've been lucky enough to see Sweeney Todd and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, both of which were well worth the extra time, money, and inconvenience to be seen on the big screen with that crystal clarity. As for whether people will care, I've converted everyone I've taken to see digitally projected movies, even the nostalgic types who like the cigarette burns and clumsy unintentional jump cuts. Once they've had that experience, the old skool seems utterly passe. What's more important to me, though, is getting digital transfers of films to cinemas via cable, thus cutting out distribution costs, which would hopefully bring budgets down (and maybe even ticket costs, though I doubt that will happen), not to mention shrinking release waits for countries outside the US. That would be a nice bonus.

    The new formats will definitely keep cinema breathing for a while. On Friday I'll be seeing Speed Racer on IMAX and expect to have an amazing experience. Same goes for The Dark Knight later this summer. Beowulf is a good film already, but in Digital IMAX 3D it's a flabbergasting experience. As Zombinoid said, Battle Angel Alita (and Cameron's current project, Avatar) will be amazing in that format, even if they're not great movies (though I obviously hope they will be). They will be spectacle, and even the best home projection system won't be able to match up to that. Okay, that means I'm saying cinema isn't dead because of two or three forthcoming movies, but if the medium changes so that this becomes more commonplace, that's fine by me. This isn't Sensurround or Smell-o-vision we're talking about here, this is the introduction of colour, or the first talkie. These formats are loved by important (in terms of industry respect), successful directors with clout (Zemeckis, Lucas, and Cameron for starters) who are going to keep making movies in these formats. It won't be going away yet.

    Of course, as has been said here, that's fine if you live near one of these cinemas, and I really know that I'm fortunate being in London where these things are situated (and sorry for crowing about it like a jerk). However, multiplexes grew slowly and were a real novelty (and yes, I felt fancy going there), before they became run of the mill and haunted by little shits treating the place like a playground. You don't get that in IMAX because a) if you run around, the slopes inside are so steep you will fall and die, and b) less glibly, you can't hear anything but the film. IMAX is a wall of noise and light; it fills so much of your vision you're transfixed, like those chaps in that probably apocryphal story about freaking out because of the train coming toward the camera. It's a totally different way to see a movie. In time these buildings will start to move out of the biggest cities and will spread throughout every country, until one day they too will stop being a novelty and will be treated like playgrounds again (hopefully by then new immersive holographic cinemas will be on the rise). I genuinely believe there will be a shift in the future to Digital IMAX 3D as popular phenomenon. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    As for regular cinema, I too hate the high ticket prices, the sticky floors, the uncomfortable seats, the jerks with mouths you can't deactivate (my viewing of [Rec] was ruined by two old farts yammering throughout; I had to scream over the sound of zombie chaos to tell them to shut up). However, the good moments are worth remembering too. Just last week I was one of the few people who hung around to see the post-credits Iron Man sequence, and as soon as Sam Jackson showed up, the atmosphere in the room became electric. There was even applause. It was almost enough to make me love cinemagoing. That said, next time my concentration is ruined by someone chatting in my ear or trying to get past me with hands full of coke and popcorn, I'll probably change my mind back.
  5.  (2113.11)
    if you run around, the slopes inside are so steep you will fall and die

    Glib, but awesome sir.

    Actually I had a problem seeing Batman Begins at the IMAX: I couldn't tell what the hell was going on during the fight sequences. Jerky camera work and a screen the size of the sky do not make a happy couple.
      CommentAuthorAdmiral Neck
    • CommentTimeMay 7th 2008 edited
    Why thank you, sir.

    I had a problem seeing Batman Begins at the IMAX: I couldn't tell what the hell was going on during the fight sequences.

    It wasn't much better on a normal screen, but I see your point. I'm worried I'll be sitting too close when watching Speed Racer and might sprain my eye muscles trying to keep up with the high-speed garish pretty. We'll have to wait and see how it plays.
  6.  (2113.13)
    I saw the trailer for Speed Racer at the weekend. I have a feeling that having seen that at the IMAX your eyes will register the rest of the world in that washed out monochrome they used for Children of Men.

    Might be worth it though, y'know.
  7.  (2113.14)
    Paul predicts the future of Film:

    IN THE FUTURE, cinemas will be the size of galaxy clusters, and immortal intergalactic space travellers will wait for millions of years in front of telescopes 10,000 times better than hubble to see the galaxy-cluster sized movies once the light from them reaches us!

    IN THE FUTURE, films will be not 3, not 4, but n-dimensional! With users picking their favourite number and range of dimensions in which to view the films (some of which will only last 10 to the billionth of a second!).

    IN THE FUTURE, film makers will be able to stream images from their own consciousness, thus eliminating film budgets, and saturating the market with 90 trillion (the projected size of the human population) amateur film makers, making 3 films a day! EACH!

    Ahem. All this is to say that (like with mobile phones reaching a certain minimum size before people realised that it was just damn impractical), there's only so far you can streatch the extremes of presentation, while the medium itself remains more-or-less unchanged. When there's a medium of presentation that changes the way in which movies are MADE significantly, there'll be a change in cinematography worth talking about.

    As far as I'm concerned the big revolutions in amateur film and home cinema-as-we-know-it have already happened. We just have to watch them becoming more affordable, user friendly and efficient.
  8.  (2113.15)
    @ Paul Duffield

    You're a comedian after Douglas Adam's own heart. :)
    • CommentTimeMay 7th 2008
    I've been waiting for Cameron's Battle Angel for yeeeeears! Somebody make this happen!!