TED Conversations

Ron Burnett

President and Vice-Chancellor, Emily Carr University of Art and Design

TEDCRED 100+

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Many commentators are suggesting that conventional cinema is dead. The era of digital, 3D film and television will change film forever.

At a recent press conference, Steven Speilberg suggested that traditional forms of cinematic entertainment will become more like the theater is today, a boutique experience for a limited and small audience. Most of what we will see will be at home and streamed over the internet. To some extent, he is right. But, what happens to the shared experiences of the theatrical environment? Will we choose the relative isolation of the home over the public experiences of going to the cinema? Am I simply being too traditional in even asking these questions?

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    Jul 2 2013: No, I doubt that theater owners really understand the need to move to more "social" forms of engagement. But, the industry certainly is aware of the need for change, at least some of the studios are. Our vast network of cinemas are an underutilized and misunderstood public space. They are potential "agoras" for new kinds of conversations and new forms of interaction. We just need to develop the model.
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    Jul 12 2013: Clearly, this conversation has not motivated much response. I wonder if there is a different way of dealing with these issues.
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    Jul 2 2013: There is something unusual about the public experience of the cinema compared to many other public experiences. That is, other than interaction with others while standing in the line, unless people go in groups, the collection of people in the theater do not interact with each other.

    Ways of transmitting movies into more private setting may promote more interactivity and engagement than the theatre does if people watch together at home and engage with each other during the show in a way that would typically not be tolerated in the movie theater.

    A movie theatre has quite a different ambience in terms of community than, say, a rock concert or a folk festival.

    The ticket prices for attending movies could give most any family cause for pause. If a family of five needs to decide whether to go to the theatre or to see the same movie at home on the couch with homemade popcorn, I think the public experience of sitting in the movie theatre has some challenges to overcome.

    The biggest reason people might go to the theatre is to see the movie before it becomes available otherwise. To some people that is not important, though. Many of us wait for new book to go to paperback as well, because we are not in a big hurry.
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      Jul 2 2013: Fritzie, thank-you for a great comment and I must say that I agree completely. The debate between private and public screenings has been at the center of discussion throughout the history of the cinema. The reasons for this are both obvious and not so obvious. Clearly, the experiences we have in theaters are at the heart of what we describe in social media, as sharing. Theaters are places where we experience relationships with others both directly and indirectly. And, the same can be said for the home environment. The difference is that in the cinema, we are confronted with new people and groups, anonymous to a degree, but not so if we want to break the social rules and actually talk to one of our neighbors. And, there is that palpable feeling of excitement preceding a film and then afterwards. There are shared laughs and outcries. All of this has an impact on viewing.

      Yes, theaters have to change and the costs have to come down. Market forces will achieve this.
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        Jul 2 2013: Would you say that those in the industry are moving toward a way of delivering a movie theater experience that promotes such engagement among strangers?

        I cannot see that people are going to begin to talk during the movie to strangers in the audience who will more than likely shush them so they don't miss what is happening on the screen.

        Then, of course, there is Rocky Horror Picture Show...
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    Jul 2 2013: Strange how this debate has gone nowhere. Perhaps we are so far beyond the point of caring for the history of the cinema, that no one wants to debate the changes. I am not suggesting that the changes are bad or even unwarranted, just that there needs to be more discussion of the shift in how viewers are watching images and where.
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    Jun 30 2013: This conversation is about the changes that are transforming the aesthetic and distribution of films.
  • Jun 30 2013: What form of entertainment ever really dies?

    Movies were going to replace theater. Radio was to be the end of newspapers. TV was going to kill radio. Video games were predicted to supplant board games.

    As for shared experience, people can now gamble anywhere, but casinos are thriving.

    People still enjoy sitting around the camp fire, telling stories.
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      Jul 1 2013: Barry,

      I could give many answers to your question but most would be comical with some too far on the foul side for this site :)
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    Jun 30 2013: Well, good things always come to an end.