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Beyond Imax – How Cinemas Need to Evolve

In an age when media consumption seems to be done on smaller and smaller screens, the cinema remains the definitive way in which to watch films, and for good reason. While the cinema may not be the most convenient place to watch films, as it puts you at the mercy of both cinema prices and fellow movie-goers, it is still your best bet at getting the optimal audiovisual experience. So, with this in mind, how can cinema be improved? What could it do, both with a pragmatic and maybe more idealistic mindset, to make the experience of seeing films better? In my opinion, it could offer quite a lot.

You could even take it further by going even harder on the retro qualities of cinema and introduce the A and B movie back-to-back arrangement where low-budget fare immediately follows the film you want to see

To begin with, let’s look at the screenings themselves which have become a rather bland experience in comparison to the cinema of the old days. Going to a cinema to see one presentation is almost always the same: a slew of adverts, trailers and then the film itself. At this point you may ask – was always the case? The answer is yes, and really the best example of what’s missing lies with Disney who are still determined to provide short films before their main feature, something which used to be standard and maybe should be again. Having shorts would certainly break up some of the advertising monotony and give audiences more for their money’s worth. You could even take it further by going even harder on the retro qualities of cinema and introduce the A and B movie back-to-back arrangement where low-budget fare immediately follows the film you want to see. Simply be expanding upon what one can get out of a screening, cinemas could make their experience so much more varied and fun.

Another thing which would work to make the cinema experience better would be to offer a greater variety of options in which to view films in. Currently the only options you get in which to watch a film in are 2D and 3D, standard or IMAX in all but a few cases. But why not go much further than this? Why not for instance have child-friendly screenings which serve to pacify the rowdier members of a junior audience through soft play areas so that they can stay in one place when they get bored of their entertainment? Or on the reverse side, would it be too much to ask for a cinema screening where food is banned? Or if someone pulls their phone out or behaves inappropriately they can be swiftly removed? Given the number of horror stories that occur at the cinema it would be nice to have at least one guaranteed screen which one can go to without dreading the sound of someone eating the whole way through. While The Electric in Birmingham doesn’t completely prevent food being brought in, it removes the worst offender – popcorn (they have a cocktail flavored eerily similar) and they also have a much more fun seating arrangement. Sofas and chairs with leg rests for only slightly higher prices? Please can we have this standardized in cinemas all over the world?

nothing hooks audiences better than good storytelling combined with open minds to receive it in

And of course, there is the question of what lies beyond 3D in terms of immersion. How do we bring audiences further into the films without improving their actual quality to make them more immersive? Well the sniff and scratch cards have been suggested but honestly why stop there when you can be far more creative? Have March of the Penguins be screened with a room temperature to match, same with a film like 127 hours. Having audiences freeze or swelter as they watch the pains of animals or James Franco would be greatly immersive, though health and safety would probably disallow it. Scratch and sniff would probably be a step in the opposite direction as it breaks the flow of the film. Though if cinemas did administer electric shocks in the seats maybe it would be an improvement, it would certainly have helped keep me awake during Fallen Kingdom. All of this is of course purely fanciful and really for all the talk of trying to make cinema more immersive by expanding the screen or adding extra dimensions nothing hooks audiences better than good storytelling combined with open minds to receive it in.

The standard cinema is a bit of a bland environment to watch films in. We accept it because it’s all we know, but I would encourage you to go and find different ways in which to watch films because all around the world they exist, movie theatres in igloos, movie theatres that still have intermissions, movie theatres that allow you to take full dinners in with you and movie theatres which give more than a few ounces of effort to providing an entertaining experience. Until we get to that point, your best bet may be when something goes wrong by accident – such as when I went to see Hereditary at the Leamington Vue and they forgot to put the film on for 20 minutes, before realizing their mistake and simply screening the film sans ads. I almost wish cinema staff were more incompetent sometimes if it meant that this kind of out-of-the-ordinary screening was possible.

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