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It wasn't too long ago - on this very site - that I wrote about the idea of combining live theater with virtual reality, speculating that we might encounter a future, at some point, where virtual reality is used to enable audience members to experience theater performances that are being put on far from where they live with the aid of VR technology.
Francis Ford Coppola recently suggested an idea that - while not quite the same - certainly sounds similar. At the recent Produced By conference, Coppola spoke of presenting "live cinema," i.e. cinema that would be projected live as it is being filmed, so that it could be broadcast to various movie theaters live, throughout the world, all at the same time, as it's happening. The idea is fascinating insofar as it combines the old appeal of communal viewing - gathering in a theater with a group of strangers to watch a play or movie together - with new capabilities that are made possible by the satellite feeds that have essentially turned many movie theaters into rooms with giant TVs. Since most theaters are now equipped for digital projection and with satellite hookups, such a worldwide "broadcast" of a movie would be possible. The experience would effectively combine models of live theater, cinema and TV.
Since most theaters are now equipped for digital projection and with satellite hookups, a worldwide "broadcast" of a movie would be possible.
One imagines there will have to be more to this idea than just a live broadcast. While that alone has a strong novelty appeal, that novelty is bound to wear off after some time, at which point audiences will surely desire a film presentation that is a bit more innovative. But Coppola, ever the fearless innovator, isn't opposed to pursuing this line of thought further; he suggested that perhaps some of the broadcast could be pre-recorded, and other parts live. Regardless, there's plenty of room for experimentation as new modes of screening films come into being.
What if an interactive component comes into play, with audiences being able to choose, to some degree, whether they watch something live or pre-recorded, or both? What if different live performances of films are recorded, and then audiences are able to oscillate between different performances, going back and forth as if they're editing the film as they watch it?
What if different live performances of films are recorded, and then audiences are able to oscillate between different performances, going back and forth as if they're editing the film as they watch it?
It all sounds a little bit silly since transmedia storytelling is still in such a state of infancy, but expect new modes of film screening to pick up steam faster than you might imagine. As soon as something can be monetized effectively, it will quickly be adopted by a broad array of filmmakers, film distributors and exhibitors.
What's appealing about the idea of live cinema is that it's an effective blend of the old and the new - an old, well-loved model of screening that makes the audience feel like they're a part of the performance, combined with a new use for contemporary technologies that wouldn't have been possible until recently.