On Friday 5th July 2013 British Cinema went against traditional production, distribution and exhibition methods of cinema and released A Field in England across multiple platforms. The same day it was released in cinema, it was shown on Film4 (notably available for free in the UK) released on DVD and internet streaming services. Through funding from the BFI (the remaining cinematic institute in the UK after an amalgamation with the Film Council) the rollout of this film has become the first of it’s kind.
Now just to clear up, I’ve yet to watch A Field in England, a review will come in due time, I’m focusing purely on the releasing and exhibition aspect of this film. What makes this such a pivotal moment in cinema, not just British cinema, is an embrace of future forward methodology of film release. Traditionally the more established names of cinema have dismissed alternative methods of releasing, even gone as far as to abhor those who suggest there should be any change to the current method. As someone who has studied film, I am fully aware that the cinematic industry can at times be dictated by a few who are more interested in preserving traditional and historic methods rather than looking to other industries and embracing the change. For example, the vinyl to compact disc to MP3 transition, the more recent development of ebooks, the way in which we consume media is changing to fit in with changing lifestyles and technological expectations.
In the current economic climate, I for one have reduced my cinema visits. It now costs around £9 to view a film in the cinema, and I believe the environment of a cinema is no longer suitable at times for watching films. Although I have discovered the cheap Tuesdays at my local multiplex, where there is very few other people, it’s quiet and calm, more ideal than the Saturday nights or Orange Wednesdays. There are many reasons why cinemas are no longer the best way to watch films, firstly, the lacksidasical attitude of both ushers and audiences. One thing I cannot bear is the person in front of me checking their phone throughout a film, the light is distracting, phones not on silent cause distraction too. Secondly, the introduction of the 12A rating. 12A is probably the bane of cinema-going existence. It means that films which were traditionally open to mature audiences are now open to children as young as 5. Theoretically, you could take your 5 year old to see the Dark Knight Rises or Spiderman. Can you see where I am going with this? 5 year olds lose interest very quickly, and when 5 year olds lose interest, they become very vocal about it.
With the emergence of many different platforms to watch films, I have SkyGo on my laptop, I have 4OD on my Playstation, we’ve also used Netflix in the past, cinema distribution should acknowledge these as worthy platforms for releasing. If you don’t have time or the money for the cinema, you can create your own ‘premier’ of films. It allows for the viewer to choose how they watch their films. I know my dad hates going to the cinema. The chairs hurt his back, and being nearly over 6ft, he struggles to find comfort in the cinema, but he also likes watching films as early as he can. Multiplatform releasing enables viewers to watch at ease. Whilst the revenue of cinema may go down with multiplatform releasing, it may make studios reconsider how they fund and budget films. It’s all too common nowadays to have a enormous amount of money thrown at production teams who in the end produce something which is mediocre. (John Carter anyone?)
Another aspect of multiplatform releasing is that if an arthouse or foreign film is released on Netflix and promoted in the right way, it may reach a far wider audience than that in a cinema. It’s not to disregard the already dedicated fan base of these films, but some people who wouldn’t opt into spending money on seeing a film like that at the cinema, possibly due to the cost and a concern that it may be a ‘waste’ of money, might chose to watch it if only their time is being spent and not their wages. It’s impossible to ignore that cinema going is an activity of the affluent. If you’ve got money spare, you can afford it, whereas some families and individuals might not have money to spare. If new releases are made available on TV whilst the advertising and hype is prominent, then films may fare more successfully on DVD. I usually make a choice about my DVD purchases based on an initial TV viewing. It’s rare now with the demise of all the HMVs within driving distance of where I live that I will buy DVDs I haven’t seen or heard of. In the past, maybe 5 or 6 years ago, I would browse HMV like a library and come home with a bundle of DVDs purely based on the cover and blurb. Now I have high bills and rent to pay, I’m more cautious about the money I spend on something which I might not potentially enjoy!
The cinema industry needs to embrace future technology. The heritage of the cinema is hugely important, the importance emphasised by the tales of Alfred Hitchcock’s influence on audiences back in the 1960s, and should never be forgotten. But as with anything in modern life, it’s changing constantly, and cinema needs to move forward, we need to challenge the traditionalists of cinema and prove that multiplatform releasing can be a good thing, particularly for low budget, unknown and first time directors who usually struggle to break through the sea of expensive blockbusters and established directors.
- Why British Cinema is so frustrating today… an insight into cinema (common-room.org)