Starting to feel like the television series you’re calling up on your Roku or Apple TV are just as good as anything you might find movie-wise at the theater?
Apparently you’re not alone. In fact, you have an Oscar-winning director – a man who lives and dies by the silver screen – finally admitting that television is giving the major motion picture a true run for its money.
Martin Scorsese’s name is synonymous with film, whether it’s the dark and gritty The Departed (which earned him his one and only Oscar win), or the dark and gritty Gangs of New York, or even the dark and gritty Hugo. OK, not Hugo – while Scorsese loves dark and gritty, he’s not a one-note director by any stretch.
But no matter how much chatter his films create, including his most recent outing Silence that hits theaters in just a couple weeks, Scorsese has come to terms with the power of television. And that motion pictures just can’t compete.
In fact, during a recent interview with the Associated Press, Scorsese pulls no punches, going as far as saying that “cinema is gone.”
“The theater will always be there for that communal experience, there’s no doubt. But what kind of experience is it going to be? It is always going to be a theme-park movie?
“I sound like an old man, which I am. The big screen for us in the ’50s, you go from westerns to Lawrence of Arabia to the special experience of 2001 in 1968.”
Yet today, Hollywood is all about the tentpole. When Scorsese directed the controversial Last Temptation of Christ in 1988, making $100 million domestically for an entire run would make you a moviemaking god. In the 21st century, however, if you’re not making $100 million on opening weekend and eyeing at least $350 million overseas, why even bother?
As ticket prices continue to rise, more and more people are creating home theaters thanks to growing technology. The experience they can create at home easily rivals that of the theater, and without the overpriced, salty popcorn to boot.
While people might line up to see a superhero or Star Wars movie, most of the “thinking” stories seem to be shifting to television instead. While movies continue to reboot old television shows, just as many television shows these days are rebooted from movies. Including one project aimed at rebooting Scorsese’s own Departed.
Yet, television isn’t quite there yet, Scorsese says.
And that’s coming from someone who has had both success in television (see HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) and some failures on television (see HBO’s Vinyl). Television is still finding its way, but it is finding it.
That is as long as writers and creators in general are free to create what they want, and aren’t held back by bean-counters worried about pushing the envelope too far.
“I had success to a certain extent. Vinyl we tried, but we found that the atmosphere for the type of picture we wanted to make – the nature of the language, the drugs, the sex, depicting rock ‘n’ roll world of the ’70s – we got a lot of resistance. So I don’t know about that freedom.”
Movie studios don’t see the theater experience dead, especially if you’re the Walt Disney Co. counting the billions of dollars you amassed this year alone. But the kind of stories we used to look for filmmakers to tell are now finding a stronger home in long-form media like television. And it’s going to force cinemas to re-invent themselves.
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