Every Movie's a Circus
The recent cinema livestreams and releases of filmed live musicals An American in Paris and Everybody's Talking About Jamie show how live musicals are increasingly going to the movies. This week, we're taking a look at some of the new technology being rolled out in cinemas around the world that provide exciting possibilities for the future of filmed live musicals and the cinema-going experience.
4D cinema, also known as immersive cinema, is considered by some as the new frontier of the cinema going experience. With its motion-enabled seats, water spray, lighting effects, scented air, wind machines, and even bubbles and snow, 4D is no longer just for theme parks, it’s coming to a local cinema near you!
First commercially developed in the 1980s, 4D cinemas are now in operation around the world. At the time of writing, there are approximately 40 4D theatres in operation in the United States. Tickets cost around $30, and the admissions guidelines read like an amusement park ride warning — “If you are pregnant, elderly, physically or mentally sensitive or have any of the following health conditions, you should not use a 4DX auditorium: high blood pressure, heart conditions, allergies, neck or back conditions or epilepsy.”
Over 100 films have been viewable in 4D, with the vast majority of films falling into the blockbuster, action movie, and animation categories. Titles have included Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Avengers, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and, most recently, The Incredibles 2.
Can 4D be effective for other film genres? More importantly for Filmed Live Musicals, could this technology be applied to the filmed live theatre experience? Could we somehow re-create the smell of theatre in which a musical was filmed, or the strong perfume worn by an audience member? Would bursts of air be felt when an actor walks past us on the screen? Would we feel a spray of water to mimic the sweat of a dancer during a tap routine? `
North American theatre chain Regal Movies describes their 4DX theatres as the “Absolute Cinema Experience” that makes you feel like you’re “in the movie” (my emphasis), but reviews suggest 4D cinema is not all it’s cracked up to be. Several critics have described attending 4D cinema as akin to riding a bad rollercoaster, and that the attempts to make the experience “immersive” only serve to bring the viewer out of the film.
Do you think 4D cinema will catch on?
An exciting new technology that is more likely to be compatible with filmed live musicals are Moviebills. Developed by US cinema compamyRegal Entertainment Group, and launched in April 2018, Moviebills comprise of a 28-page print magazine, phone app, and website, which provide users with print and augmented reality (AR) content including interviews, bonus footage, behind-the-scenes info, and more.
Looks super cool right? Moviebills are only available for select blockbuster movies, and only in Regal Cinemas.
I’m hoping other companies, and perhaps even live theatres, will want to jump in on this fun innovation. New York City's Classic Stage Company only offered digital programs for their recent production of Carmen Jones, and the UK's National Theatre provides digital programs through their Backstage app for a small fee (only available in the UK).
On Demand Cinema
With so many entertainment options available to audiences at home, the cinema industry has been working hard to lure customers back into the theatres. An interesting new development in this endeavor is on-demand movie theaters.
In 2013, Australian distributor Leap Frog Films launched Demand Film, a service that books film screenings of niche films in cinemas based on audience demand. Users request a movie, and Demand Film organizes a screening. The user must sell a minimum number of tickets for the screening to go ahead, and once the minimum is met, the user can make money from the ticket sales. Demand Film is currently available in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Germany, Canada, and the United States.
Chinese online entertainment service iQiyi announced in May the launch of Yuke movie theatres. The cinemas are like mini movie theatres, with 2-10 comfy seats and a large screen. Users select content from the extensive iQiyi library and watch it in a Yuke cinema, at the time and location of their choosing.
Could we one day get a group of friends together at our local cinema and watch a Broadway or West End show?
Whether or not these technologies take off, one thing is clear: these new innovations are making more and more content available to us in ever more exciting ways. I'll be checking out the filmed live London production of An American in Paris at the cinema in a few weeks. Follow on Twitter for updates!
This content originally appeared in the July edition of the Patron-only newsletter. If you would like first access to bonus content, join the Filmed Live Musicals Patron today!
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Many thank you's to Star patrons Mercedes Esteban-Lyons, Jesse Rabinowitz and Brenda Goodman, and David and Katherine Rabinowitz for financially supporting the site.
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