Tim was a late teen living in Sydney in the 1970’s when he would regularly attend the cinemas or “flicks” as he referred to them. The cinema was held in high regard as an “exciting event and you would come out of the cinema feeling much better than when you went in, an escapism if you will”. As Tim recalls, many people went almost every week to catch “a flick” and there was always a “buzz” about the weekend when most would go to the movies, the same could be said about today’s movie audience. Movies have always been a part of popular culture, having impact on the arts, technology, music and even politics. Going to the movies today is still seen as “escapism” but the film and movie industry has since seen a tremendous change and culture from what it was in the 1970s. There have been numerous advancements such as sound, production, screen, audience, scores and scripts to name a few. Technology
When you compare movies today to earlier films there are still similarities but there are a lot of differences as well, from silent movies to black and white movies to the introduction of color in movies. Take surround sound as an example, today we just assume that movies viewed at the cinema will automatically be in surround sound but it wasn’t until the 1950’s when “the installation of multitrack stereo sound systems, theatres not only looked by also sounded different then they had in the past” (Belton,1990 p.187) changed the way audiences heard movies. Tim’s experience in sound also affected the way he watched movies “the surround sound was most evident when they played to various fanfares, weird sounds coming from various directions and it felt like the sound was shifting from speaker to speaker, it certainly gave another auditory dimensional experience, more movement and more dynamic”. Another difference was movies cameras. Back in the pre era, cameras were very limiting and could only record for very short periods unlike today’s cameras that can record for a long amount of time. These days there are multiple camera setups together with sound synchronisation sound to accompany the movie. The digital revolution was another advancement in movie technology “for audiences, it began in the realm of special effects-a field that is now dominated by computer-generated imagery” (Belton 2004, p.902). Industry
The film industry nowadays is practically keeping Hollywood afloat; back then, movies were not produced for commercial purposes as they are today, “Indeed the connection between marketability and high concept seems to be very strong in the entertainment industry” (Wyatt, 1994, p.9). The emergence of ancillary markets or “high concept” for Hollywood also emerged during Tim’s era. Cable television pay-tv, celebrity driven culture and the home revolution had a lot to do with the increase in marketing, it seemed that marketing a movie has overtaken making movies in the current era. “Now days, there seems to be a high volume of production with no emphasis on creating classics or good quality movies”, recalls Tim, “Movies are basically all about making money with no real artistic integrity”. The marketing for a movie now days almost supersedes the movie itself, as Tim mentioned, “you can often see the gist of a movie simply by viewing the trailer”. Take for example the marketing for blockbusters in the 1970s such as Grease and Jaws; the marketing campaigns on these movies almost outweighed the movie themselves which seemed to reap huge dollars at the box office.
Grease had a mixture of star power and focused on both the young audience with the romance aspect and the older audiences that tied in with nostalgia, a perfect combination that still makes Grease one of the most memorable movies of all time. Marketing these days has to find new and creative ways, often unrelated to the movies content to attract audiences, bringing the working and middle class together, from documentaries to major epic based movies. Merchandise inspired by the film, such as action figures and books increase the public’s awareness of the movie, therefore increasing the shelf life of the movie. In addition, promotional tie ins with TV shows, radio stations, books and magazines as well as popular music soundtracks (also tied in to music television shows and film clips) create a real “hype” about the movie and can attract and audience that it usually wouldn’t.
With the rising influence on the internet, and movie blogs/movie based website such as “rotten tomato’s” a web site purely based on movie ratings and reviews, movie viewers can learn about the movie and plot well in advance to watching the movie, which makes the marketing of the movie even more prevalent today than ever before. High concept can be considered as another element of filmmaking and how it changed the economy of film including the ancillary markets with the rise of television, and distribution markets. It’s almost impossible to overlook high concept in movies of today, “by producing high concept films, studio have been able to identify and exploit particular market segments. In this fashion, the changing economic parameters of the marketplace have helped to configure the high concept film” (Wyatt. 1994, p.19). Audiences
Historical events such as the great depression in the early 30s followed by WWII affected cinema greatly, movie goers dropped dramatically with some cinemas closing down. After the war, the film industry had to compete with television and with consumers enjoying higher levels of disposable cash and moving to the suburbs to have a more balanced life away from the city, watching movies in the privacy of their own homes. The film audience has changed significantly over the years, audiences these days have been more exposed to violence and sex on screen than ever before. As Tim recalls “there was a lot of extreme censorship, which meant the censorship board cut out the bits that they thought you shouldn’t see, most of the violent, scary and complex stuff was inferred by context and not shown explicitly, so I guess one needed an adult mind to fill in the gaps”.
The rules around censorship now days are more relaxed with an almost “anything goes” attitude in film that could possibly be in accordance with modern society’s tolerance for uncensored media. Most people now days go to the cinemas whereas prior to 1975 film had smaller audiences “Much speculation on people’s motivations for movie going have been offered. A 1952 article asserted that movies appealed to audiences “not because they take them into some other world, but because the make their own world more bearable”. At the same time, the cinema was said to serve several psychological functions. Amongst these were satisfying intellectual, aesthetic, and religious needs”. (Austin 1989, p.50). The impact of cinema and its impact on society have always faced major controversy, with research claiming that media and films have a strong impact on people and their behaviour. The media mostly through film has been depicted as a major source of negative societal behaviour. The film industry more than ever needs to bring in as many people as possible to view the movies which means a close eye must be keep on what type of stories will appeal to the greatest number of people.
Consider violence in movies today, there has been a drastic change in the way violence is shown hence the different effect it may have on society then it did the early days. “Audience awareness is closely linked with physical and emotional responses to violet movies. Participants experience a range of physical and emotional responses, such as anger, fear, excitement and disgust” (Hill,1997, p.27). Violence in films has been around since the early 1930s, the difference today is that violence is the way in which hip filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone use it as a media tool to draw out long dramatic film sequences where in older films, it was over in the blink of an eye. Viewing violence today is considered a social activity, which can make for dynamic movie viewing. Conclusion
In conclusion for many people, going to the movies then and now is still a virtual reality experience of escapism. The marketing for movies in the current era is more commercially savvy with the main emphasis on making as much money from the movie as possible. But for many, it is entertainment, and/or a chance to step into someone else’s reality and perhaps come away from the experience, changed for the better, having learnt something about themselves, society and culture. With the introduction of documentaries and film festivals, moviegoers have more to ponder on than ever before. There’s now a high volume of production with, what appears to be, not a real emphasis on creating the “classics” as they would in the early days of film. For many moviegoers such as Tim, they still like the “glamour” of the movie theatre; it always has and always will be about entertainment.