Tricks and Gimmicks: Unneccesary Distractions?

Every single year without fail I always look forward to the Christmas holidays. It gives me a chance to kick back on the couch and to catch up on all the movies and shows I have been meaning to explore but have been unable to due to college. One day during the holidays a friend and I went to the cinema to see Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse (a fantastic film if you haven’t seen it already) and we had an argument about what format to see the film. Now I wanted to see the film in straight up 2D without any of what I call “tricks and gimmicks” but my friend wanted to see the film in 3D. This got me thinking, why is it people choose to consume their content in such a way that in my opinion distracts from the film or show they are watching. Personally I am not a big fan of such tricks and I figured I would give my thoughts on the subject.

Firstly I feel it is important to establish just how these so called “tricks and gimmicks” came into play in the first place. In the 1950s following the conclusion of the Second World War and during the ongoing baby boom in America and beyond there was an undeniable rise in the popularity of the television. For the first time in history audiences no longer had to step outside their homes to be entertained, instead they could park themselves and their families on the front room couch and spend the evening enjoying popular television. Of course unsurprisingly this scared movie theatres and production companies who saw reduced profits from cinema goers. Therefore in order to combat this challenge cinemas and companies began to introduce little gimmicks in order to attract customers. One of the first and still most popular of these gimmicks was 3D, an attraction that promised to “blow movie-goers’ minds” and to really immerse them in the world of cinema. Personally for myself it has the opposite effect but that is beside the point, these tricks were invented in order to save the cinema industry at a time of uncertainty so I appreciate them for that. However what role do they have to play today?

Entertainment has come a long way since the early 1950s with innovations such as the internet and improved home cinema systems making access to content easier than ever before. However, these innovations also bring challenges to the entertainment industry, we live in a world where online piracy runs rampant and this of course scares people at all levels of the industry. Cinemas in particular have been hit the hardest by this trend as many  consumers around the world have decided “why should I pay €7 for a ticket when I can get it for free?” I’m not condemning anyone here as everyone has been guilty of this at one or more points in their life, I am just trying to identify for you clearly why these gimmicks are at play.

So with the rampant use of piracy and the dominance of video on demand services such as Netflix how do cinemas combat this challenge? Well it seems that they have opted to repeat history. In recent years we have seen “innovations” such as 4D trying to make cinema a more sensual spectacle but ultimately failing to enhance the experience in my opinion. However I don’t want to sound like I’m all doom and gloom here as there have been some genuine innovations that have helped to enhance the movie-going experience. The introduction of larger curved screens make worrying where to sit in the cinema irrelevant. Technology such as 4K projectors and Dolby Atmos quality surround sound speakers in my opinion help to draw the viewer into the world. It is these innovations that I feel should be invested in, not 4D and other gimmicks.

The most interesting of these technological innovations in my opinion has to be IMAX. Promising larger scale immersion IMAX has been around since the late 1970s although it has become more popular in recent years. For those of you who are unaware of what IMAX is basically it’s a larger scale format of screening films that requires niche specially designed equipment such as special projectors and larger cinema auditoriums. Now I have tried IMAX myself and it is a fantastic experience, however you have to be very careful. One can only see the benefit of IMAX when it has been shot in 70mm film and not digitally. Sadly less and less filmmakers are opting to shoot on films nowadays due to rising expenses which is a tragedy in my opinion. However if you ever get the chance to view a film like Dunkirk shot completely on 70mm film by Christopher Nolan then please do, it is an experience you will not soon forget.

So to get to the core of what I have been trying to say. Although I do despise some of these gimmicks as I refer to them I also see exactly why they are there. I have to wonder if cinemas had not introduced 3D in the 1950s would they still be standing today? Whilst I may complain all day long about these tricks the fact of the matter is I also have a lot to thank them for. However I urge you next time you visit the cinema, why not just head to a regular 2D screening and enjoy the film the way it was intended, you will be very surprised how much you can appreciate a film when you’re not distracted.