There has been more video content created in the last decade than the entire history of cinema put together. Anyone with a smartphone can make and post a video story on the internet. But most of this type of democratization of content has taken place online, with viewers watching the content on their tablets and phones. In an excerpt from Tom Shone’s new book, The Nolan Variations, filmmaker Christopher Nolan explained how watching a film on your phone can be a richer experience when combined with the theatrical movie-watching experience.
“‘[People ask] well, do you have a problem with people seeing ‘Dunkirk’ on my phone or whatever?’ No, I don’t. But the reason I don’t is because it’s put into these big theaters as its primary form, or its initial distribution. And the experience trickles down, to the extent where, if you have an iPad and you’re watching a movie, you carry with you the knowledge and your understanding of what that cinematic experience would be and you extrapolate that. So when you watch a TV show on your iPad, your brain is in a completely different mindset.”
For the longest time, Nolan was considered a bit of a snob when it came to filmmaking, in the sense that he insisted on using celluloid to film his movies when the rest of the industry has moved on to digital, and insisted that his latest film Tenet release in theaters in the middle of the global lockdown rather than debuting on VOD.
Now, Nolan has made it clear that he does not mind people watching his films on smaller screens, but believes having the option of watching the same film on the big screen helps add a new dimension to the viewing experience that would be lacking if the film was only available on streaming.
The question of theatrical vs online VOD distribution for films has been quietly brewing in the background of Hollywood ever since Netflix first started gaining prominence. Now, 2020’s unique hardships that have beset theater chains the world over have made the debate reach a boiling point.
It would not be an exaggeration to say the next few months will prove to be a saving or a breaking point for the theater industry. If watching new movies on streaming rather than in cinemas becomes the new norm, then even the theaters that manage to survive will find few takers as they will be likely forced to hike up prices to cover mounting costs.
Due to the dire straits that cinema halls find themselves in, filmmakers like Nolan, Patty Jenkins, and others have called upon the government to aid in the business’ recovery. But with most other industries hit equally hard by new social-distancing rules, that help seems unlikely to come in any significant form. It now remains to be seen whether the next Christopher Nolan movie that audiences watch will be on the big screen or directly on iPhones. This news originated at Screenrant.