Alternative Content in Cinemas
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:
- Strictly functional (cinema for hire: demonstrations of surgery)
- Participatory (cooperative cinema: debates, video lectures, TED-talks)
- Socializing (cozy cinema: home movies, holiday movies)
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 (http://www.denachtvanhetpalmares.be). 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: http://www.exhibitiononscreen.com/
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:
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:
- To screen the mini-series Mildred Pierce (HBO 2011, 5 episodes, directed by Todd Haynes) together with the film noir Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945).
- Critical reflection on the role of a public broadcasting companies, positive or negative. The Italian RAI for instance has been both a co-producer of quality films and recognized as an icon of vulgarity. Ginger e Fred (Federico Fellini, 1986) could be the centerpiece of this program.
- Critical reflection on the role of audiovisual news media. Several feature films could be programmed, such as The China Syndrome (1979), Broadcast News (1987), or Talk Radio (1988).
- American city life trilogy: The Wire (2002, situated in Baltimore), Treme (2010, New Orleans), Show Me a Hero (2015, New York).
- ‘vintage television series’. For example from the BBC-archives: I, Claudius (1976), The Glittering Prizes (1976) or Pennies From Heaven (Dennis Potter, 1978). Or to select vintage from the US tv-series heritage, for example Wild Palms (ABC, 1993).
- ‘films made for television’. The film production of the British ‘Channel 4’ has been influential, especially in the case of The Draughtsman Contract (Peter Greenaway 1982),which took (and recuperated) the whole year budget. In 1993 the International Film Festival Rotterdam screened a sidebar program called ‘Cinema Made By Television’, followed in 1994 by a tribute to ‘Das kleine Fernsehspiel’: productions of the German public broadcast company ZDF. In 2013 the IFFR presented a retrospective of Dominik Graf, a German film director who mainly worked for television.
- The early cinema serials of Louis Feuillade are perfect for broadcasting as a daily television show, and also perfect for revivals at film festivals, film theatres and film archives. There is enough content available: Fantomas (1913-14), Les Vampires (1915-16), Judex (1917-18) and Tih Minh (1919).
- Documentaries made for television. Dutch examples:distribution company ‘Cinema Delicatessen’ releases documentaries which are also presented on television, and repeated in the programming of the broadcast channel ‘‘HollandDoc.nl’. Also the festival events ‘IDFA on Tour’ and ‘Movie That Matters On Tour’ are screening documentaries in addition to a television broadcast.
- A choice of successful non-fiction cross-media projects of Dutch broadcast company Vpro, such as In Europa (2007-2009); Beagle: in het kielzog van Darwin (2009-2010); O’Hanlons Helden (2011-2012).
- A low budget, ready-made option: The Eurovision Song Contest. In 2013 circa 5 million Dutch people watched the final and none of them did this in a cinema, as far as I know.
- ‘Narrowcast cinema’: outreach to the neighborhood by screening material from local television stations, or creating local crowd sourced content, or organizing talent nights for starting directors.
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 (www.lightcone.org / www.re-voir.com, they are also keeping up a blog: http://revoirvideo.blogspot.nl/), Vienna (www.SixPackFilm.com), London (www.lux.org.uk), Stockholm (www.filmform.com), Brussels (www.Argosarts.org), Amsterdam (www.filmbank.nl).
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: http://virtueelplatform.nl/activiteiten/mapping-mediafestivals.
Reflection on media art in cinemas:
- Balsom, Erika (2014) ‘Live and Direct: Cinema as a Performing Art’ in: Art Forum September 2014, URL: http://www.artforum.com/inprint/issue=201407&id=47842
- Balsom, Erika (2013) Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP. URL: http://www.oapen.org/search?identifier=442726
- Connolly, Maeve (2009) The Place of Artists’ Cinema: Space, Site and Screen. London: Intellect.
- Uroskie, Andrew V. (2014) Between the Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art. Chicago: Chicago UP.
Key words of cross media communication (integrated media experiences):
- multi-media: several media channels are used for distribution,
- aimed at the optimal use of different media specific qualities,
- focused on possibilities of co-creation, the audience is sharing and interacting with your input, participation and engagement through crowd sourcing. User generated content, customized communication.
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:
- other ‘spacial media’ (radio, urban screens, live events, shops, posters).
- ‘computer screen media’ (blogs, e-zines, streaming video, websites, social media, mobile apps, computer games, television).
- ‘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.
- The Enclave (Richard Moss, 2013), short film with infra-red images of the war zone in the Democratic Republic of Congo, shown at the Biennale di Venezia 2013. Interview: http://video.frieze.com/film/richard-mosse-impossible-image/
- Sea Women (Mikhail Karikis, 2012), impression of the life of women-divers (‘haenyeo’) at the South Korean island Jeju.
Some options of presenting cross media events in a cinema program:
- Project of media researcher Lev Manovich: ‘Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database’. Exhibition (ZKM, Karlsruhe 2002 DEAF, Rotterdam 2003), DVD & booklet (MIT Press 2005), Television documentary (Arte), Website: http://www.softcinema.net
- Project of Dutch photographer Kadir van Lohuizen: ‘Via PanAm: Exploring migration in the Americas’ (2012): iPad app, website, radio items, newspaper reports, exhibition, book. There are also many options for traditional film programming, following his track from Patagonia to Alaska.
- Project of Dutch photographers & journalists Robert Knoth & Antoinette de Jong: ‘Poppy: Trails of Afghan Heroin’ (2012): exhibition, book. There are also many options for traditional programming, of films about Afghanistan and/or heroin traffic.
- www.BombayFlightAcademy.com See also: http://photo-stories.org/henrik-kastenskov/
- www.mediastorm.com See also: http://photo-stories.org/brian-storm/
- http://highrise.nfb.ca - One Millionth Tower – Katerina Cizek.
- http://gaza-sderot.arte.tv - Gaza, Sderot: Life in Spite of Everything.
- http://content.time.com/time/beyond911/ - Marco Grob.
- http://burtynsky-water.com/?page_id=24 - Edward Burtynsky
Some options for presenting Open Source Content in a cinema program:
- Open source images from the website of International Space Station were made into a 4K time-lapse film by Thomas Schulz of ‘Cinegrid’. The result is a wonderful short film, which could be perfectly combined with a screening of for instance GRAVITY (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013), or both versions of SOLARIS.
- ‘Google StreetView’ offers among others fascinating footage of the Galapagos Islands.
- The website ‘Geo Guessr’ uses footage of ‘Google Street View’ as a game to guess the location.
Some options for presenting Digital Born Content in a cinema
- Screening of e-sport, as for instance Star Craft and other competitive computer games.The international game festival Dream Hack has a massive audience. The festival cooperated with Vue cinemas in 2016 to present the e-Sport festival Counter Strike: Global Offensive on the big screen.
- Screening of e-learning, various ‘serious games’, with an educational purpose.
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).
- Additional Notes
- Genesis and Growth of the Holland Animation Film Festival (HAFF): A Concise Survey of Critical Condi
- Looking forward to Cinema 2020
- Alternative Content in Cinemas
- Bibliography Film Programming - Curating for Cinemas, Festivals, Archives (2015)
- Summer Film College 2015
- Diversity of Cinema Programs in the Digital Age
- Digitization of Film Exhibition: A Chronological Bibliography
- The Dutch Animation Collection: a Work in Progress
- Genesis and Growth of HAFF
- book review Lobato (2012)
- The filmprogrammer as mediator in a mediated world
- Film Summer College 2013
- Film Summer College 2011 (Antwerp)
- Book review of Thompson (1988)
- The Birth of Cinema
- Basic Notes on Film Analysis
- Introduction A few basics about film festivals
- Time Machines in Cinema
- Storytelling and documentaries
- Talkshow Digital IFFR 2010, a report
- Respons to Dekalog 3 On Film Festivals
- People on Sunday (1930)
- book review Seyed-Gohrab & Talattof (2013)
- Inventory Dissertations Film Studies (NL and B)
- Bibliography of Film Studies