Editorial: Future Cinema's Live Events Could Revolutionize Moviegoing
by Ben Pearson
January 30, 2013
The film industry is constantly evolving. Pundits have been heralding the decline of traditional theaters for years, and increased ticket prices, additional charges for 3D, IMAX, or HFR, and the affordability of high quality HD televisions and sound systems have been tipping the scales toward the consumer staying in instead of going out. But Future Cinema — a live events company based in London — is here to change all of that. They host incredible realistic live recreations and screenings of classic movies, and this insane level of interactivity is more than enough to convince people to not only watch a film, but to experience it, too.
Future Cinema runs an offshoot called Secret Cinema, in which they charge around $50 for a mystery movie that gives you far more than just the feeling of staring at a screen for a couple of hours. They've done screenings of the doc Anvil! The Story of Anvil in which the band showed up for a performance afterwards, a recreation of the infamous volleyball scene from Top Gun paired with that movie, and now, perhaps their best effort to date: they've taken over an abandoned school and turned it into a prison for a screening of The Shawshank Redemption. To get an idea of just how detailed their productions are, watch this video here:
If you're in the London area, tickets for The Shawshank Redemption experience are on sale right now for every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in February at Future Cinema's website. The Shawshank screening is no longer part of the Secret Cinema banner, because the title has already been revealed. Future Cinema also has a Casablanca-themed event that runs until March, and you can snag tickets for that here.
I know a lot of people will look at this venture as nothing more than an elaborate kind of dinner theater production, and that's fine. But if the studios were to jump on board with ideas like this, it could be the start of an exciting new alternative theatrical experience. Last year, Future Cinema held a secret screening of Prometheus, and 20th Century Fox had props from the actual film on display. That's exactly what I'm talking about. This cooperation needs to be encouraged and embraced, not ignored. There's something amazing that happens when film fans visit a set for the first time, or take a tour of a Hollywood studio, or see actual props that were used in movies that we love. It lets us connect with a piece of movie magic. It's why restaurants like Planet Hollywood thrive, and why WB brought every Batmobile to Comic-Con last year.
But not everyone can afford to travel to Los Angeles and take a tour of a studio. Tim League and the Alamo Drafthouse already try to bring experiences like this to the masses with their excellent Rolling Roadshow film series, in which they set up a screen and project a film on location where the movie was shot (Close Encounters of the Third Kind at Devil's Peak, There Will Be Blood at an oil exhibit near Bakersfield, etc). But imagine the connection fans would have if the people at Future Cinema were able to turn their immersive, interactive experience into a regular thing for movie fans across the world.
Plans are already in place to expand their events to New York, Paris, and Berlin. But why stop there? In a world in which people are constantly talking and checking their phones in the middle of movies (we even saw this at Sundance last week, a place where you'd assume people would know better), it's only going to get more difficult to coax the consumer out of their homes and into theaters. Drafthouse has been making strides toward creating a fantastic movie-watching environment by actually enforcing a "no texting, no talking" policy during their screenings, but huge chains like AMC and Regal are too scared to offend people in their theaters. They'd rather the experience be tarnished for everyone instead of enforcing the rules on the bad apples, so until those chains have vanished and a Drafthouse replaces them, we're always going to be looking for new ways to get involved. Paying forty dollars more than a regular ticket price for a full three hours of entertainment before the film even starts sounds like a pretty great way to ensure that only people who truly care about the experience are there.
I don't know if it's like this in every high school, but when I graduated, we had to come up with a senior quote to go under our names in the yearbook. A lot of people quoted the hottest comedy of the year - I can't imagine how many senior quotes said "Very nice!" when Borat came out in 2006—and some wrote cliched, inspirational phrases like "reach for the stars!", but I chose my quote from the closing minutes of The Shawshank Redemption. "I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain." Morgan Freeman's narration perfectly encapsulated that moment in my life, an exciting time when anything could happen and my future hadn't been written yet.
Movie lovers recognize the parallels films can have in our lives, and how something once written on a page, spoken on a set, and projected in a theater can become more than just a movie and embed itself into our psychology. Future Cinema understands the power that films can have and aims to make those moments tactile, forging a deeper connection with film than we could get even when seeing it on the largest screen possible. This could be a passing fad, but since the company is currently on its nineteenth event and making a killing doing what they love, it could also revolutionize the way we watch movies. Props to Fox for helping out with the Secret Cinema Prometheus screening, and here's hoping other studios can see the value in alternate interactive entertainment like this so we can as moviegoers all test out whether this is a viable method of movie-watching in the best possible settings. What do you think of Future Cinema?