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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » The future of cinema: Showing TV series on the big screen? (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: The future of cinema: Showing TV series on the big screen?
Marcel Birgelen
Film God

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From: Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
Registered: Feb 2012


 - posted 09-24-2017 07:38 PM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Sorry for the somewhat teasery subject, especially since I won't answer the question. [Wink]

Last month, after finishing some refurbishments in our screening room we decided to invite some select "family and friends" to do some sort of soft-reopening. We asked them what they wanted to see. What movie did you always want to see on the "big screen"? Nobody came with a conclusive answer... you know, everybody has their classics, their favorites, but it's pretty hard to find a match that pleases everybody. Some came with an interesting answer though... they wanted to see Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead on the big screen.

Surely we told them that it would be impossible to show an entire series in a single screening, but it got us thinking. What if we wouldn't go for a series that has already 6 or more seasons out? What if we would go for a series that has a somewhat cinematic feel?

So, we decided to go for Stranger Things, the highly acclaimed Netflix hit-series that has just 8 episodes out right now. We also choose it, because it has a distinctive, cinematic feel to it. We decided to put two episodes back to back in a show, with a little intermission in between the episodes. A show would be roughly 120 minutes in total, including two trailers, some stingers and the intermission, so pretty much comparable to your average full-feature screening. So, instead of a single screening, it would become 4 screenings, in this case, two per week.

Once we announced our little plan, our "test audience" went almost crazy, they wanted to invite a whole bunch friends in, especially those who've never seen the show before, forgetting about the fact that it's really just a screening room seating at most 12 people, not an cinema. Many of those 12 people, had actually already seen the whole first season, they didn't mind to see it again.

Getting things setup for those screenings was petty awful, unfortunately. Everything had to be done by hand. We looked for Blu-Rays and all we found was bootleg material, which we didn't even want to try. We've even ended up contacting Netflix outlining the idea. They were no help. They didn't object to our plans as long as the show was for free, but they could not give us anything else than what was available on-line for streaming. So, we ended up doing the show just like that: Live Streaming from Netflix, which is obviously impossible to automate.

I don't need to tell you this, friends and family aren't the greatest test audience when it comes down to objectivity, also, off course, we did those shows for free. But what was obvious is that they loved it. Every single one of them. They were hooked right from the first minute. Every single night (except the last one), after the second episode, they kept asking for "just one more". None of them cancelled for a single night, someone even called in and asked if we could start 30 minutes late, because he couldn't make it in time, we honored that request and we entertained the audience with some shorts. I've been told more than once that they would gladly pay for it, if they could watch it this way, on a big screen in a theater near them.

So, I'm probably not the first "genius" that comes up with the idea, but why couldn't this be a viable model for REAL cinema? Maybe even the future for cinema?

Haven't you heard the argument that today's TV shows are better than today's movies? Many TV shows are getting raving reviews and dedicated followings, whereas you only need to look at the bygone summer to see what happened to Hollywood in the meanwhile.

Yes, there are the obvious problems. Licensing is one of them, but if there's money to be made, that's usually a solvable one.
The other one is the concept: Not that it has never been done before, but it's pretty different from what people have come to expect from a visit at their local movie theater.

Another one is exclusivity, which has hurt cinematic releases more than once.

But, what if, for example, shows could be made available to cinemas, a week before they're released on TV and/or streaming? They could be showing "this weeks" episode and "next weeks" episode back to back. That way, the cinema does have an exclusivity advantage. Also, successful shows tend to build a very loyal audience...

So, what do you think? Is there a model in there? Or is this just total BS?

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Carsten Kurz
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From: Cologne, NRW, Germany
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 - posted 09-24-2017 08:15 PM      Profile for Carsten Kurz   Email Carsten Kurz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The trouble here seems to be that currently, Netflix is at war with the cinema industry, because they want day and date releases of hollywood content, and the exhibition industry wants/needs to keep their exclusive release window.

I think many people would love to see the high profile serials in the cinema.

- Carsten

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Mike Blakesley
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 - posted 09-24-2017 08:17 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
TV shows really aren't built to be seen on the big screen, especially comedies with live audiences, but it might be fun to watch a series season "cinematized" and shown ahead of its TV debut.

However, I doubt the TV show makers would ever go for that model, and theater owners might not either because it would further blur the lines between TV shows and theatrical movies.

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Dave Bird
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 - posted 09-24-2017 09:13 PM      Profile for Dave Bird   Author's Homepage   Email Dave Bird   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I like what you did, even if it only proves that people really DO want to be out of the house, socializing and consuming snacks in a dark room (or under a starry sky of course). That's something that needs to be reinforced constantly. I bet there's any number of interesting ideas that could be tried from time to time, so long as it didn't get stale.

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Mike Blakesley
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 - posted 09-24-2017 10:53 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My wife and a couple of our friends like to watch concerts on the screen. I just convert 'em to DCP and we crank up the volume. It's way better than going to a real concert because you don't have to have the ear-bleeding volume, or the $100-plus ticket price, or the guy behind you pouring beer on you, or all the other annoyances that go with live concerts, which by the way are WAY more annoying than the annoyances you get with movies. Besides, for us it's a minimum 100-mile drive to the nearest concert site.

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Sam Graham
AKA: "The Evil Sam Graham". Wackiness ensues.

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 - posted 09-24-2017 11:37 PM      Profile for Sam Graham   Author's Homepage   Email Sam Graham   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I would pay to see “Twin Peaks: The Return” on a big screen in a room full of fans.

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Marcel Birgelen
Film God

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From: Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
Registered: Feb 2012


 - posted 09-25-2017 02:49 AM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Carsten Kurz
The trouble here seems to be that currently, Netflix is at war with the cinema industry, because they want day and date releases of hollywood content, and the exhibition industry wants/needs to keep their exclusive release window.
Netflix might be an unfortunate example, I agree. But on the other side, Netflix spends billions of dollars a year on content production those days. They might just come to realize that there's still a lot more margin to be gotten in the exhibition industry than the direct-to-tv/instant streaming business. A more "intimate" relationship with the exhibition industry might even help to open them up for the arguments of the exhibition industry for keeping a window of exclusivity.

quote: Mike Blakesley
TV shows really aren't built to be seen on the big screen, especially comedies with live audiences, but it might be fun to watch a series season "cinematized" and shown ahead of its TV debut.
I agree, a lot of content simply doesn't work on the big screen. For example, my girlfriend is a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So, after countles of requests, I showed one episode to her on a big screen. Needles to say, it simply didn't work out. Even the "remastered" HD version looked like crap on a big screen. (Actually, the HD version looks far worse than the original. They tried to expand the picture to 16:9 and botched it up in many regards.) It also became obvious, the picture wasn't framed for big screen viewing. So, Buffy really is best remembered on a 24" TV in your living room.

But many of those newer series are actually some pretty high value productions. We went through quite some of these once we settled for Stranger Things. It was acquired in 6K on RED cameras and shot in 24fps. The aspect ratio of 2.0 is a bit uncommon, but feels like a trade-off between making it feel cinematic, while not wasting too much space on your average 16:9 TV.

With a bit of work, we managed to get the 4K stream to work and while it was being scaled back to 2K, simply due to lack of a proper 4K HDMI port on the projector (I'm looking at you, Barco), the picture still looked amazing. The framing and whole cinematography worked great on a big screen. Someone really put a lot of care and attention into it. It really wasn't shot for your average TV, so it's actually a pitty almost nobody will see it this way.

quote: Dave Bird
I like what you did, even if it only proves that people really DO want to be out of the house, socializing and consuming snacks in a dark room (or under a starry sky of course). That's something that needs to be reinforced constantly. I bet there's any number of interesting ideas that could be tried from time to time, so long as it didn't get stale.
I do strongly believe in the importance of the social aspect of cinema. I think it's also the reason why it survived both the advent of TV, video and why it will survive the advent of streaming.

I think it's important for cinema to try to renew itself though, the cinema of the future might be different from what we have now. While that might be scary for some, it might not be that bad at all, at least if you accept change. In the end you're selling an experience to your audience. But getting there is like with so many things in life, you probably end up with a lot of failures before hitting a single home run.

We've seen a lot of things already happening like flashy new sound systems, improved projection, bigger screens, more cosy seats, etc. But I think what matters most is still the stuff that hits that big screen. We might have lost some nostalgia and arguably some other things with 35mm, but digital cinema also gives us some new opportunities, like showing live-casted Opera, recorded concerts of big ticket stars or some other big live events. Since practically "everybody" can create a DCP nowadays and everybody can hook up something to the HDMI port on your projector, there's a lot more room to experiment with alternative show formats, I think we should use those powerful tools more and better.

I've been a fan of the "Double Feature" for a while. Now, I can understand not everybody really likes to sit in a dark room for 4 hours or more, even though most seats have become way much more comfortable than like 30 years ago. Hollywood doesn't seem to cater to a market with shorter features, so that's why TV series have a certain appeal to me in this regards.

quote: Sam Graham
I would pay to see “Twin Peaks: The Return” on a big screen in a room full of fans.
Twin Peaks: The Return was actually on our shortlist. It works pretty well on a big screen, but there were simply too many episodes for our little experiment.

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Scott Norwood
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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
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 - posted 09-25-2017 07:01 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have done some HBO screenings for a few of their shows. Most recently, they did some of the Game of Thrones shows (this was a year or two ago) just before they were broadcast. I am not sure how tickets were distributed (I assume that they were free), but they brought in food and a "throne" and had a photographer to take pictures of people in the "throne."

These shows used to come in on HDCAM or HDCAM SR tapes, but the newer ones came in as regular DCPs (with keys). They showed about an hours' worth of material, plus a brief introduction (there were no stars or others involved with the production present, so there were no Q&As).

They seemed to have no trouble distributing 400-ish tickets for these events.

My personal opinion is that movies should try to distance themselves from television as much as possible (especially as the technology behind the two continues to converge), but the people who attended these events seemed to enjoy them.

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Dave Bird
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From: Perth, Ontario, Canada
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 - posted 09-25-2017 10:10 AM      Profile for Dave Bird   Author's Homepage   Email Dave Bird   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
What are you using to convert to DCP Mike? My wife of all people (who used to be pretty shy on the microphone) would like to do some of our own "policy trailers" which we could put on the screen pre-show.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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 - posted 09-25-2017 10:41 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Marcel Birgelen
But, what if, for example, shows could be made available to cinemas, a week before they're released on TV and/or streaming? They could be showing "this weeks" episode and "next weeks" episode back to back. That way, the cinema does have an exclusivity advantage. Also, successful shows tend to build a very loyal audience...
I don't think a theater would get very many takers on this kind of offer. There are two big reasons why I don't think the model would work: the product's image of price/value and the issue of time/convenience.

I don't expect very many couples to blow $50 or more on a trip to the theater just to watch a couple episodes of a TV show. Which episodes would they choose to watch on the big screen? It would be an enormously expensive proposition to watch every episode in a theater. A mere one week window is a very short time to wait in order to watch at home, at one's convenience, for far less money.

Watching a TV series is now a major time committment. Many modern TV shows all have a continuous story line, forcing the viewer to watch an entire series from beginning to end. Decades ago episodes of M*A*S*H or Kojak were all self-contained; viewers had to follow afternoon soaps for continuous story lines spanning many episodes. The streaming services have become very popular for watching TV shows since they allow viewers to choose when and where they watch as well as how many episodes to watch in one sitting (and without all the damned commercial breaks). On those platforms all episodes of a season are immediately available to watch rather than doled out one per week.

quote: Carsten Kurz
The trouble here seems to be that currently, Netflix is at war with the cinema industry, because they want day and date releases of hollywood content, and the exhibition industry wants/needs to keep their exclusive release window.
Netflix is doing what it can to prop up its stock price. It's a short term gain ploy. Day and date release of Hollywood movies would be a disaster for the entire entertainment industry and even the consumer electronics industry. The problem is people like Reed Hastings are living in absolute denial of this fact, blinded by efforts for short term gain. Day and date release would put the movie theater industry out of business. Without movie theaters Hollywood studios would no longer be able to make big budget 2 hour movies. Their product would essentially turn into made for TV movies. The contagion of that lower production value content would have a very negative effect on premium & basic cable TV networks, what remains of the video rental industry and even negatively affect the streaming services of Netflix, Amazon, etc. Big budget movies help push sales of big TV sets and surround sound systems. The music industry gets a certain bump from movie soundtrack sales. This goes on and on like domino theory.

There would probably still be some kind of movie industry surviving if America's theaters and movie studios bit the dust, but that industry might be overseas. America's movie industry has a major effect on global popular culture. If that industry goes on a suicidal path it can allow other nations, like China for instance, to start one-upping us in pop culture.

quote: Mike Blakesley
TV shows really aren't built to be seen on the big screen, especially comedies with live audiences, but it might be fun to watch a series season "cinematized" and shown ahead of its TV debut.
Certainly a TV comedy with a laugh track would not work in a movie theater. On the hand, many dramas, particularly bigger budget dramas like Game of Thrones have very similar production methods and production values of feature movies. They're using the same camera/lens systems. The shows are mixed in 5.1 surround; hell, GOT on Blu-ray has Atmos tracks now. The digital back-lot technique is widely implemented on both feature movies and TV shows.

If anything, it's the Hollywood features that need to take bigger steps to feel less like TV shows.

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Pietro Clarici
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 - posted 09-25-2017 12:44 PM      Profile for Pietro Clarici   Author's Homepage   Email Pietro Clarici   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
We've even ended up contacting Netflix outlining the idea. They were no help. They didn't object to our plans as long as the show was for free (...)
What? This makes no sense, they cannot possibly be cool with a show (even a free one) in a non-domestic setting, meaning that you could - theoretically - charge for concessions and/or other services.

There have been some experiments of this type in my area. They were successful, but it was clear from the beginning that they were completely unauthorized and under the radar.

Should there be be a legal way to do that, I'm sure it could work.

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David Buckley
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quote:
So, we ended up doing the show just like that: Live Streaming from Netflix, which is obviously impossible to automate.
"That's just a software problem"

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Martin McCaffery
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 - posted 09-25-2017 03:16 PM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Earlier this year for about a month, NetFlix was allowing public screenings of Ava DuVernay's 13th. They had to be streamed and shown for free. We had a connection to get a BluRay, which was fortunate, because the streaming looked horrible.

They are currently allowing theatrical screenings of Okja. Haven't tried to show it yet, so it may be pulled by now.

Generally speaking, NetFlix only allows theatrical screenings for Academy Award qualifications and that's it. Now and then, like 13th, they allow some free screenings.

We've done a few rentals with HBO over the years, but it has been awhile. Those are usually shows that have some local connection that they want to "premiere" before showing on cable. They usually bring in all of their own equipment.

Some of the other cable networks do special "premieres" of the season opener, or the pilot of a new show. For the most part, television shows are not allowed to be theatrically shown because those rights weren't negotiated. I can't imagine running a tv show for a week.

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Marcel Birgelen
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 - posted 09-25-2017 04:31 PM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Scott Norwood
My personal opinion is that movies should try to distance themselves from television as much as possible (especially as the technology behind the two continues to converge), but the people who attended these events seemed to enjoy them.
I've always been more of a "movies guy" than "TV series" guy. Still, the ongoing convergence of them is almost undeniable. Many TV series are recorded with the same or better gear and having similar budgets per minute than medium budget films.

My primary problem with the standard series format is that it requires everything to be condensed into this ~50 minute window. Some series are even produced with stringent requirements for commercial blocks in mind. Those kind of built-in format limitations are often mind numbing for the creative process.

Unfortunately, many modern movies also look like they're made out of a template, after being vetted by the studio consortium of old, wise men for their flavor ingredients.

I just recently started to watch some series again and it's hard to deny the appeal of some of those. It actually hurts to say this, but some of them are of a level of quality in storytelling, acting and cinematography, they make the 13-in-a-dozen drivel coming out of Hollywood look bad, real bad...

quote: Dave Bird
What are you using to convert to DCP Mike? My wife of all people (who used to be pretty shy on the microphone) would like to do some of our own "policy trailers" which we could put on the screen pre-show.
DCP-o-matic is a powerful open source tool, you should check it out. I remember Mike using it too, as many others on this forum. The lead developer also sometimes comments on this very forum. It converts most common video and audio files into DCPs. So if you can produce a decent video, you should be able to make a DCP out of it.

quote: Bobby Henderson
I don't expect very many couples to blow $50 or more on a trip to the theater just to watch a couple episodes of a TV show. Which episodes would they choose to watch on the big screen? It would be an enormously expensive proposition to watch every episode in a theater. A mere one week window is a very short time to wait in order to watch at home, at one's convenience, for far less money.
I'm sure it wouldn't work for each and every show equally well, maybe it's also something that only really works in more urban areas. But given the hype around many of those series, especially around season starts and ends, I still think you could gather a considerable crowd.

Also, what I've learned that for many people, watching a couple of the episodes they really like, is often worth more for them than watching a movie, even if it's in a proper cinema.
quote: Pietro Clarici
What? This makes no sense, they cannot possibly be cool with a show (even a free one) in a non-domestic setting, meaning that you could - theoretically - charge for concessions and/or other services.
They don't have a licensing model for this kind of settings, at least not around here. They seemingly license some content out for theatrical showings in the U.S., but that entire department is still non-existent in Europe. We didn't charge anything and we didn't sell concessions. They might have taken place in a place that's otherwise being used for commercial activities, but I guess a gathering of 12 people, being friends and family is still covered by "fair use", at least around here. You could also invite 12 of your friends, put a projector up in your living room and as long as you're not charging for the services you offer, it would still be fair use.

We would have paid for it (other than via my personal Netflix subscription), if they would've provided a better source than their on-line streaming. In the end it worked out well, but it pretty much dependents on the 4K stream holding up. If it falls back to small-band, due to bandwidth or server issues, it's pretty much the end of it.

quote: David Buckley
"That's just a software problem"
Primarily a DRM problem actually. Since there are bootlegged versions of everything on Netflix out there, I'm sure there are more "elegant" ways, but we didn't have the time or motivation to go "all hacker" on this.

quote: Martin McCaffery
I can't imagine running a tv show for a week.
I guess certain flexibility from the studios/content owners would be required for such a model to work, that includes not tying your theater up in showing the same two episodes exclusively, all week long. You probably even want to "aggregate" as much people as possible into the same show. That way, the possibility they meet the same people week after week increases. Part of the appeal is the social aspect. You're watching one of your favorite shows with other people with the same interests.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

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From: Forsyth, Montana
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 - posted 09-25-2017 05:02 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Marcel Birgelen
DCP-o-matic is a powerful open source tool, you should check it out. I remember Mike using it too, as many others on this forum. The lead developer also sometimes comments on this very forum. It converts most common video and audio files into DCPs. So if you can produce a decent video, you should be able to make a DCP out of it.
Yep, that's what I use...it works well, is easy to use, and any question you have, you can get answered almost immediately, either right here on F-T or by emailing the mailing list.

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