Avatar HFR And Spider-Man Extended: How The Movie Industry Is Hoping Re-Releases Can Save It
If you’ve looked at what’s on offer in your local cinema, or theatre if you’re not in Europe, you’ll probably notice that in terms of new releases, there’s not a huge amount on offer. As I write the only new “big” release, is Beast, starring Idris Elba, but everything else is relatively low-key. As has been widely reported, Cineworld, the leading chain in the UK that also owns Picturehouse Cinemas, and Regal in the US, is very close to filing for bankruptcy.
While currently all screens remain open and there are no job losses, it’s a sad situation for movie fans. The Covid-19 pandemic is unsurprisingly the main culprit, as while there have been some strong successes this year in terms of numbers, such as The Batman, Top Gun: Maverick, Thor: Love and Thunder, Jurassic World Dominion, and Minions: The Rise of Gru, it’s not been enough and box office taking are down by a third compared to 2019. A huge part of the problem is that the number of films for cinemas to show has dropped considerably – fewer films were made during the pandemic, and they haven’t yet got back up to speed.
Instead, cinemas are bulking up their release schedule with re-releases, from classics such as E.T and Jaws to The Lord of the Rings. While specialist cinemas always offer older releases, these are aimed at the cinephile crowd – rather than the people pleasers on show in the main chains.
But is this a situation from which the mainstream movie industry can recover? I recently posed this question to Bruce Markoe, head of post-production at IMAX. Markoe has been in the industry for decades, so is well positioned to have a wider perspective on what is going on right now. While he agrees that there is a lack of higher profile movies out right now, he says that it does give smaller movies, that don’t necessarily have the huge marketing behind them, a chance to shine. “I wouldn’t say there’s a lack of good movies, because the studios are releasing other movies, but they’re smaller, more independent type dramas and things like that. And some of them are very good: they’re just not the kind of movies that would typically draw large audiences.”
He’s also confident that this is a situation from which the industry will recover: “It’s never happened this often that there weren’t any larger, higher-profile movies, in the market, so, I think that has been a bit of a problem for exhibitors. I think it will get better – it’s not a permanent thing. In my opinion, it’s going to get rectified, and that there will be more consistent product that, hopefully, can attract large audiences to keep both exhibitors and studios happy in the marketplace.”
In the meantime, aside from wanting to support cinema in its time of need, you may be wondering which movies are truly worth watching on the big screen.
To decide I’ve put together a list that divides what’s going to be on offer for the next few months into three categories so you can be more informed about whether to make the trip.
Same as disc/streaming
Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition
Star Trek: Wrath of Khan – The Director’s Cut
Jackie Brown – (25th Anniversary)
For these films, what you’ll see is the same as if you were to see the film at home. Of course, that’s not to say you should make the effort. In my opinion, the U.S.S Enterprise refit from the 1979 movie is one of the most beautiful sci-fi spaceships ever, so the chance to see it on a big screen is going to be a rare opportunity that’s worth taking.
Everything Everywhere All At Once: Extended Cut
Spider-Man: No Way Home – The More Fun Stuff Version
These are two very recent films, the latter from last year and the former only a few months old. While I enjoyed Everything Everywhere All At Once, I felt it had been somewhat overhyped, and, thought that it could have benefited from being a bit shorter – so the prospect of watching an even longer version doesn’t get me excited. Spider-Man: No Way Home was one of the funnest movies of last year, and that isn’t even a real word, but it was so enjoyable I don’t even mind. If you don’t know what the big reveals were then report to NASA now, as you’ve clearly been living on another planet. The brilliantly named “The More Fun Stuff Version” has – 11 minutes of extra footage, which, sensibly, can only be seen in theaters, so that’s one I’ll be happy to see again.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 40th Anniversary
James Bond: No Time to Die 3D
James Bond: Skyfall
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (the U.S. only)
Avatar: 3D, HFR
The films above will all be released in IMAX format, which is bigger and better than standard 2K screens, and that alone is enough to make you want to consider going to see them again. Most of these films are the standard versions that have gone through the IMAX Digital Media Remastering (DMR) process, which is a proprietary upscaling format so that they will look good on the larger IMAX screens. I’ve already booked my tickets for Jaws (“we’re ‘gonna need a bigger screen”) and might well do the same for E.T. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is undoubtedly the best of the new Disney Star Wars movies and is being shown to whet appetites for Andor, the TV series coming to Disney+. The film did enjoy a very limited run on IMAX 15/70mm film and if there was a showing in that format I’d make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs to be there. However, that does seem unlikely (I mean the film print part – I could easily handle the Kessel Run: it’s a piece of cake).
The 3D release of No Time to Die at the BFI IMAX is an odd one. The 3D version was originally only released in China, so this is a unique opportunity to see in stereoscopic. I’d be intrigued whether it works.
The really big one is Avatar. This will be making its way back to IMAX to get us ready for Avatar: The Way of Water. At 13 years, it’s beyond a long wait for a sequel. This re-release is interesting as James Cameron has remastered the original in high frame rate (HFR), using Pixelworks technology. HFR was used by Peter Jackson on the Hobbit movies and Ang Lee on Gemini Man, but the technology was generally poorly received by critics, including this one, while movie-goers appeared indifferent. However, with the Avatar remaster (and Avatar 2) Cameron is using the TrueCut Motion technology. tech so that the high frame rate is only employed in certain scenes, so it should make us feel as weirded out as it did in those other HFR films.
Aside from that, Avatar in IMAX 3D is surely the reference stereoscopic experience, so even if you normally avoid 3D, you should make the effort to go. Avatar will also be available in 4K HDR version. The only cinema format of truly doing justice to HDR is Dolby Cinema, so if you’re a big fan of seeing the world of Pandora on screen, that’s another format to tick off your list. And to finish off, Cameron is also lining up Titanic in HFR to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary next year.