Ridley Scott: “The Only Way to See a Film [is] Inside a Large Movie Theater,” But Blu-rays Will Do in a Pinch
Posted on Thursday, December 8th, 2011 by Angie Han
It’s not uncommon nowadays to catch people watching movies on their iPhones on the subway to work or while waiting around at the laundromats, but I suspect the vast majority of cinephiles will still agree that nothing can quite beat the real theater experience. The tickets may be overpriced, the popcorn stale, and that guy in the third row who keeps texting throughout the movie really annoying — but unless you’ve got a personal home theater, it’s pretty much impossible to replicate the immersiveness that comes with big sound and a huge screen.
In a recent essay, filmmaker Ridley Scott argues eloquently in favor of watching movies at the theater — or on Blu-ray, if you absolutely must watch a movie at home. OK, so it’s utterly unsurprising that a filmmaker thinks the best way to watch a film is in “the way the filmmaker intended,” but he makes some pretty good points nonetheless. After the jump, read his views on physical media, streaming, and the moviegoing experience.
In my view, the only way to see a film remains the way the filmmaker intended: inside a large movie theater with great sound and pristine picture. Music and dialogue that doesn’t fully reproduce the soundtrack of the original loses an essential element for its appreciation. Simply put, the film loses its power.
Short of that, the technically sophisticated Blu-ray disc, of which I’ve been a supporter since its inception, is the closest we’ve come to replicating the best theatrical viewing experience I’ve ever seen. It allows us to present in a person’s living room films in their original form with proper colors, aspect ratio, sound quality, and, perhaps most importantly, startling clarity.
Which is why it has never made sense to me that those preoccupied with how movies are delivered have for years written off “physical media” (i.e., movies on discs) as “dead” even though the evidence shows it isn’t happening and won’t for years to come. Technology will need to make many more huge leaps before one can ever view films with the level of picture and sound quality many film lovers demand without having to slide a disc into a player, especially with the technical requirements of today’s 3D movies.
I’m not sure I agree that it’ll be that long before downloaded or streaming media can offer high quality, but his essay is a well-written reminder about the power of the cinematic experience. What I really like, though, is that Scott isn’t missing the forest for the trees. Scott’s not against technology for its own sake, and he’s not taking an unrealistic all-or-nothing attitude about movie-watching. He’s just concerned about what’s lost when audiences settle for a less than ideal experience. As he puts it, “For movie lovers it doesn’t matter whether that magic comes at a theater or through a disc, an electronic stream, a satellite or a wireless device as long as it is delivered through the best possible experience.”