Alternative Content in Cinemas

Peter Bosma
April 2016 - circa 2,000 words
Table of contents
1. Line up of already existing and interesting Alternative Content
2. ‘Broadcast Cinema’
3. ‘Expanded Cinema’: Screening Media Art

1. Line up of already existing and interesting ‘Alternative Content’
Screening of (live streaming) registrations.
To begin with, it is possible to distinguish three basic options:
In this article, I focus on the pleasure of a cinema audience to be virtually present at live events (witness cinema). This could also include events in the film industry, as for example the awards ceremony at Cannes 2015 that was live-streamed at several Belgian cinemas ( At the moment however, the market of event cinema is dominated by screenings of live (or semi-live) streamed registrations of opera performances, ballets, musicals, and classical stage productions.
There is a vast repertoire of famous cinematic registrations of rock concerts, this seems a promising niche market: Gimme Shelter (Albert & David Maysles, 1970); Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1984); Queen - Hungarian Rhapsody (Budapest, 27 July 1986), Shine a Light (Martin Scorsese, 2008, documenting a concert of The Rolling Stones in Beacon Theatre, New York); Springsteen & I (2013).
And there are also some new takes on the genre of concert films, such as Björk: Biophilia Live (2014). In this case, a ‘support act’ could be made by screening also a selection of music video-clips of Björk, or for example short films by film directors/scientists Jean Painlevé (French) or J.C.Mol (Dutch). Also the documentary Inside Björk (2002) could be added to the program.
Possible option: to expand the repertoire of dance films, presenting an exploration beyond the offerings of major companies such as the Bolshoi Ballet. The Dutch film festival ‘CineDance’ is a good practice of adventurous programming in this field. My suggestion for an exciting double-bill program would be the combination of the short dance film Muurwerk (Wolfgang Kolb, 1987, which offers a mixture of observation and a mediated gaze) and the documentary Rain (Olivia Rochette & Gerard-Jan Claes, 2012, which gives a glimpse of the rehearsal process of the choreography ‘Rain’ (2011), by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker).
Cinema could be paired with registrations of outstanding examples of all six arts: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Dance, Music, Poetry.
Case study: screening of registrations of visits to museum exhibitions.
The series ‘Exhibition’ (directed by Phil Grabsky & presented by Tim Marlow) proved to be popular Alternative Content in European cinemas, featuring work of Leonardo da Vinci, Edouard Manet, Edvard Munch, and Johannes Vermeer. In the summer of 2013 Pompeii Live was screened at 280 UK cinemas. It is a virtual tour of ancient Pompeii, made in collaboration with the British Museum to promote their Pompeii exhibition. In 2014 films were made about the Vikings exhibition in the British Museum and the Henri Matisse exhibition in Tate Modern.
In 2015 the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam commissioned a film, A NEW WAY OF SEEING (David Bickerstaff, 2015). This last example would give a fine opportunity to do some additional programming, as for instance VAN GOGH (Maurice Pialat, 1991), VINCENT AND THEO (Robert Altman, 1990), VINCENT: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF VINCENT VAN GOGH (Paul Cox, 1987), and LUST FOR LIFE (Vincente Minnelli, 1956).
For an overview of current offers see:
2. ‘Broadcast Cinema’
The basic idea is to take selected television content into the screening room. Television series have been always popular, and digitization of broadcast content made it possible to watch these series on demand. Recent television drama series are generally accepted as cinematographically high quality productions. This combination of developments makes television series perfect for screenings as Alternative Content in the cinemas. However, screenings in cinemas of box set television series and other broadcast content is still incidental. Dutch examples include ‘Changing Channels’, a sidebar program of the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2013, and the first edition of ‘Amsterdam Series Festival’, also in 2013.
National broadcast companies in Europe offer many examples of television series fit for the big screen. For example: Män som hatar kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; SVT/ZDF/Yellow Bird Films, Sweden, 2009); Borgen (The Fortress; DR Fiktion, Denmark, 2010); Les Revenants (Rebound; Canal Plus, 2012); A’dam & EVA (Vara, NTR, Vpro 2011-2016), Black Mirror (Endemol UK/Channel Four, 2011).
My personal selection of recent high quality international television series include Six Feet Under (HBO, 2001), Mad Men (Lionsgate Television, 2007), Olive Kitteridge (HBO, 2014) and Better Call Saul (2015), a spin-off, prequel, and sequel to Breaking Bad.

Some other examples of both popular and critically esteemed television series are:
  • The Sopranos (HBO, 1999-2007);
  • Breaking Bad (2008-2013, Sony Pictures Television);
  • Community (NBC, 2009);
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC 2009);
  • Sherlock (BBC, 2010);
  • Person of Interest (Warner Bros, 2011);
  • Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011);
  • Homeland (Fox 21, 2011);
  • The Newsroom (HBO, 2012);
  • Girls (HBO 2012-2015);
  • House of Cards (Netflix, 2013);
  • The Leftovers (HBO 2014);
  • True Detective (HBO 2015), with a cross-media promotion through the online game The Detta Dossiers.
There all kinds of popular crime drama series and sitcoms. To program thoughtlessly the most popular television series would be just a too simple routine. And also clearing the rights would probably be expensive. A more alluring option for curating screen content is to choose for repertory programming, because in the past many renowned film directors participated in the production of television series. Some examples: Krzysztof Kieslowski made a lasting impression with his series of 10 television films (Dekalog, 1989-90). Other classic examples in this field are R.W. Fassbinder (Welt am Draht, 1973 & Berlin Alexanderplatz, 1980); Ingmar Bergman (Fanny and Alexander, 1982), Edgar Reitz (Heimat 1984 -2006 2013); David Lynch (Twin Peaks, 1990-91); Jane Campion (An Angel at My Table, 1990); Lars von Trier (The Kingdom, 1994).
Also more recent several outstanding film directors cooperated with television producers. In chronological order: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Shokuzai, 2012 - Penance); Agnieszka Holland (Horici ker, HBO 2013, Burning Bush); David Mamet (Phil Spector, 2013); Neil Jordan (The Borgias, 2013); Jane Campion (Top of the Lake, BBC 2013); Steven Soderbergh (The Knick, 2014); Bruno Dumont (P’tit Quinquin, ARTE 2014), and there are television productions of Guillermo del Toro, David Fincher, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, and even the brothers Coen.
Some more options for screening broadcast content:
Personally, I don’t believe there is a big audience for showing television registrations of physical sports in cinemas, not even for popular sports events like the Olympic games, or the several soccer competitions. In my view, watching sports collectively is more appropriate for pubs.
To conclude this paragraph, we could also explore the options of new forms of extended viewing experiences by investigating the potential of connections between spectators in the cinema mutually, and also communication between spectators and the outer world. The linear screenings of television series or other broadcast content could incorporate use of smart phones and social media, facilitating interactive texting and explore applications of serious gaming and second screens. Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) offers an internet layer on top of the tv-screen. It is still a new technology, but it could be apllied to cinemas too, I presume.
3. ‘Expanded Cinema’: Screening Media Art
Media art contains experimental films, animation films, video art, net art, registration of performances and installations.
Media art is to be found in the catalogues of media distribution companies in among others Paris ( /, they are also keeping up a blog:, Vienna (, London (, Stockholm (, Brussels (, Amsterdam (
An other source of possible content are the various Media Art Festivals in Europe. An overview of the media art festival landscape in The Netherlands is to be found in this publication:
Reflection on media art in cinemas:
Key words of cross media communication (integrated media experiences):
Test-case for expanded cinema programming:
The phenomenon of ‘Museum Nights’ in several Dutch and Belgian cities. It is possible to present especially for this occasion an interesting traditional programming, by offering a save choice of feature films located in a museum: Dopo Mezzanotte (Davide Ferrario, 2004), or Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov, 2002), or Museum Hours (Jem Cohen, 2012), or the documentary La ville Louvre (Nicholas Philibert, 1990). However, it is more challenging to go outside this comfort zone. Linear film screenings could be combined with the use of:
  1. other ‘spacial media’ (radio, urban screens, live events, shops, posters).
  2. ‘computer screen media’ (blogs, e-zines, streaming video, websites, social media, mobile apps, computer games, television).
  3. ‘print media’ (books, magazines, newspapers, flyers).
Good Practice of expanding the programming of a Film Archive
The series of expositions at the EYE, the new Dutch film museum in Amsterdam. Each exposition of EYE contains projections on big screens, and each exposition was accompanied with several cinema screenings and events. For example: Found Footage’ (2012), ‘Expanded Cinema’  (2013), ‘Oskar Fischinger’ (2013), ‘Johan van der Keuken: Up to the Light, Filmmaker and Photographer’ (2013).
Explore the supply of cinema in Art Museums: Black Box in the White Cube.
Some options of presenting cross media events in a cinema program:
Some options for presenting Open Source Content in a cinema program:
Some options for presenting Digital Born Content in a cinema
Virtual Reality
Is Virtual Reality compatible with cinema screenings? Will 3D-glasses be replaced by VR-goggles? Virtual Reality means: witnessing 3D action, immersive and interactive. The audience can look around in a moving image, projected close to the eyes. In this way it is possible to visit locations, such as refugee camps, hospitals, or just floating in outer space. It is also possible to walk around in a game surrounding. Most common is handling gear or machines in simulations, for example flying in helicopters. At the moment there is a choice between VR-goggles from Oculus Rift (Microsoft), Morpheus (Sony) or HTC5 (Samsung).