Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Widescreen Films - A New Experience

The widescreen film became a special theatrical event in the 1950s through three key developments:

  • Films being booked as blockbusters to a small number of first-run theatres as opposed to standard distribution.
  • The theatres were refurbished creating a more spectacular experience
  • The total experience between the widescreen and refurbishment created a form of participatory recreation where the audience were active contributor in the process.

These changes to cinema becoming a theatrical event were significantly important because there was a decline in box office after World War II and a greater emphasis placed on leisure time creating a broader range of competition.

AndrĂ© Bazin who is one of the most influential film critic and theorists distinguished an audience’s participation in theatre and cinema by noting theatre as a live experience requiring an active involvement by the audience whereas, cinema separated the performance space. John Belton in Hollywood in the Age of Television, claims that wide-screen cinema formed a “greater illusion of participation” (Belton, 1990:188). While Bazin argues a valid distinction between theatre and cinema, wide-screen does fit into either active vs. passive audience theory, but introduces a new form of participation by drawing the audience into the “space of the picture” (Belton, 1990:188).

In the 1950s there were four key developments in widescreen:

  1. Cinerama
  2. Cinemascope
  3. Eratz Widescreen
  4. Todd-AO
John Belton, "Glorious Technicolour, Breathtaking Cinemascope, and Stereophonic Sound" in Tino Balio (ed), Hollywood in the Age of Television (Boston: Unwin, 1990) pp 185-211

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