Cinema’s Resurrection?

Ellie Siora on how innovative screenings must challenge ‘passive’ binge-watch culture, after attending an all-night Wes Anderson marathon

Outdoor Cinema at Oxford Castle (image from Average Joe)

Despite being my first all-night movie marathon, I never felt unsure of what to expect. I anticipated a charming vibe of artistic souls, aesthetically matching the quaint velvet seats of the Prince Charles Cinema (PCC). I imagined a microcosmic encapsulation of my superficial romanticisation of Soho. But I must admit my attendance was partially to rebel against my own revision timetable. On arrival, I was as excited for the immersive experience ahead as much as the spectacle on the screen.

But to my surprise, the atmosphere actually sparked a nostalgic resonance of pre-teen sleepovers; where friends gather in determined solidarity to watch films all night. In scenes reminiscent of 11 year old slumber parties, the PCC’s Wes Anderson all-night marathon constructed the very same enchantment over its audience.

Cinema has been referred to as ‘dead’ for years. Pockets of resistance like these, reasserting the importance of the space of the cinema, are timely and necessary. Cinema has been reduced to a mere social arena, losing its power as a form of cultural expression. Its capacity to micrify the audience, offering them escapism in the film has been undermined with the growth of home cinema and the Netflix/Piratebay ethos. Films have become associated with the background of the every day, reducing cinema-going to a passive pastime – no longer an experience in itself.

Cinema’s survival rests on something innovative and captivating to spark its rejuvenation. The Wes Anderson all-nighter expresses all the crucial elements to achieve this. As movies have become more accessible, a symptomatic shift has occurred in our cinema-going habits. We now only fork out for something we truly consider ‘worthy’ of the big screen.

Yet paradoxically, we invest large blocks of time indulging in the cultural habit of the ‘Netflix binge’, gorging ourselves on seemingly unending TV series’. They feed our contemporary obsession for ‘going all out’ when we do devilishly decide to be unproductive. I suspect this trend is all built on a foundation of procrastination.

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The ‘All-Night Marathon’ is part of a much wider alternative screening movement, reasserting the power of the cinema as a space. The likes of open-air cinemas, and screenings resembling immersive theatre, all share a desire to make cinema thrilling again. Perhaps it was just the sugary style of Wes’ films, but for me this novel, all-night experience seemed to echo the wonder felt cinema’s inception in the early 20th century. To survive this era of passive viewing and binge-watch culture, cinema needs to embrace more eclectic content and more radical screening experiences to regain its cultural importance.