Nostalgia is Very Much What it Used To Be.

Oooh look, I'm on film!

Oooh look, I’m on film!

As of April 2013 75% of the world’s cinemas have converted to digital and at the speed it’s going I would imagine that number has already increased considerably. I saw some figures at the recent Digital Cinema Conference that indicate the UK was sitting at 91% digital as long ago as January.

Any cinemas sitting on the fence, and incredibly there are still one or two, are going to have to pull their finger out. Almost certainly by the end of 2013 most of the major distributors will have made the decision to drop 35mm film imminently or have done so already.

A cinema without digital projection by the end of this year is doomed. Fortunately we went completely digital three years ago, one of the first multi screen independants to do so.

Three years is not long at all, but 35mm feels like a lifetime ago. The prospect of going back to film would be horrific. If it was discovered that digital projectors were ticking time bombs that could destroy the high street at any moment and all film projectors had to be restored, I would give serious consideration to changing my career. Something that would be less traumatic, say like cutting old ladies toe nails in the local retirement home.

Not having to lump the heavy transit cases up and down the stairs alone is a cause for rejoicing along with the other physical requirements which make every performance a potential hazard.

Perhaps I overstate the last point, but the fact I can run all three screens without leaving my office chair is perfect for a lazy git such as myself. I can even run the show from my iPhone should I so desire. Truly the future is now.

Inevitably though, the Luddites and nostalgia fans have already come out of the woodwork. I must admit to being rather surprised at just how quickly.

Already some cinemas are promoting 35mm screenings as if they are both special and superior. They pick themselves up a scratchy old join riddled print of say, Silent Running, and promote it as cause for celebration.

A celebration of all that is good about cinema. To paraphrase Adam Buxton, nonsense! nonsense! nonsense!

Everytime I sit and watch a film in my cinema I’m still staggered at how bright and sharp the picture is. How it doesn’t have marks on it and it doesn’t jump up and down. The framing remains constant and it doesn’t change colour every twenty minutes.

Film looks fantastic, when all the elements are right. When the laboratory work is spot on, which it rarely was in the last few years. When a popcorn monkey let loose in the projection box hadn’t inadvertently used the print as a stair carpet.  When the lamp was correctly lined up, the portholes and lenses were clean and the intermittent shaft wasn’t bent out of shape and the sprocket teeth not worn down to a nub.

Am I getting a bit technical? Sorry.

The point is that it’s very difficult for cinemas to sod up digital. Which is why it’s perfect for multiplexes, where often no one ever bothers looking out of the porthole to check the picture is actually on the screen let alone in focus or framed correctly.

It makes the customers experience far more consistently good. Which is the most important thing, not how much you like mucking about with strips of plastic.

Where has this affectation about 35mm come from? It feels pretentious and ill informed. 35mm projection is not better than digital projection, you may prefer it, but it’s not better, and the benefits far outweigh the perceived losses. I’m not even sure what we have lost, can someone explain?

There will always be a nostalgia for film, because it’s in the past. Like rationing and ricketts.

But don’t you dare suggest my cinema is inferior because I merely show films digitally.

I bet you probably paid £50 for an HDMI lead too.

One thought on “Nostalgia is Very Much What it Used To Be.

  1. I wrote a long response to this but, after seeing how long ago it was written, I sighed and didn’t see the point in posting it all so I’m left with this.

    I rarely visit cinemas these days as the on-screen resolution is only marginally better than that of blu-ray so what’s the point?

    Your cinema, every cinema nowadays, is inferior because it shows films digitally. Cinema is lost. With the simple push of a button (“I can even run the show from my iPhone should I so desire”) any notion of performance or occasion is gone; it is no longer an art and is merely run by “lazy gits” – your words, not mine!

    Give me a scratchy old join riddled print of Silent Running any day of the week. At least some effort has went into getting it up on screen.

    John Hiddlestone

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