The Biggest 'Back To The Future' Screening Ever

Last night at the Hollywood Bowl, the record was broken for the largest Back to the Future screening. An estimated crowd of over 16,000 people watched the film on the big screen, accompanied by live orchestration.

As you know, I'm a huge Back to the Future fan, so of course I was in attendance for the monumental event. After the jump you can find more information, alongside my thoughts and also some photos and video of the event.

Back to the Future Hollywood Bowl

The Largest Screening of Back to the Future Ever

The Hollywood Bowl was near capacity for the one night only event, Back to the Future In Concert. An estimated group of over 16,000 people* were in attendance making it the largest Back to the Future screening ever.

The previous record for the largest Back to the Future screening went to Secret Cinema's event in London which saw an estimated 75,000 people attend over the 30-day run. So that's a few thousand people per screening on the busiest nights.

But who knows how long this record will hold. Back to the Future In Concert will be touring worldwide, with stops in London, San Francisco, Houston, Cincinnati, Toronto, St Lois, Melbourne Australia, Denver, Chicago, Jacksonville, Portland and more. See a full schedule here. As far as I can tell, none of the venues listed on the tour can beat the Hollywood Bowl, many offering only a fraction of the seats.

* The Hollywood Bowl has not provided attendance numbers, but the venue looked to be not quite filled to capacity, which is 17,376.

Watching the Movie With Live Orchestration

The original 1985 film was played on a big screen with dialogue and soundtrack while the Los Angeles Philharmonic performed the orchestrated score in synch with the movie. I shot a brief video of the climactic sequence from the film to give you an idea of how awesome it felt to watch the film with this audience and the live musical accompaniment. You can watch that above. Here is someone else's close-up shot of the LA Phil playing the main Back to the Future theme:

It was awesome that the audience was so into the film, cheering and booing at all the right moments. A surprise was the cheers when Doc tells Marty that he is going to go 30 years into the future — the film is of course celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the same year Marty McFly and Doc traveled to in the sequel, Back to the Future Part II.

Alan Silvestri

Alan Silvestri Composed 20 Minutes of New Music for the Event

The coolest part of the event is that Back to the Future composer Alan Silvestri wrote 20 new minutes of music to fill in large gaps in the film's first half which didn't feature an orchestrated score. To someone like me who has seen the film hundreds and hundreds of times (literally) the additions were very obvious, but some of the people I talked to at the event didn't notice most of the new music.

The new music feels like it belongs in a Back to the Future movie because most of it has either been in one before, or was slightly reworked from an existing theme in the trilogy. For example, Doc and Clara's love theme from Back to the Future Part III was played during the film's early dinner table scene in which Marty's mother Lorraine McFly (Lea Thompson) remembers how she first met her husband George (Crispin Glover). So while the music feels natural, to my ears it felt very weird to hear music in moments that never before had score.

The film shown on screen has obviously been changed from the one shown in theaters and on video to exclude the score. But I also noticed another big difference: The film ends without the "To Be Continued..." title which was added to the home video release and has appeared on every release since the theatrical run of the film.

For those of you who don't know, Bob Gale and Robert Zebecks never intended to make a sequel. The final "we don't need roads" scene was supposed to just be a fun ending, but after the film was popular at the box office Universal and the filmmakers added the "To Be Continued..." tag, as they decided they would someday make a sequel.

The event also had an intermission about half way through the film. Coming back from the intermission the orchestra played the Back to the Future western theme song from Back to the Future Part III.


I'm Afraid You're Just Too Darn Loud

The biggest disappointment of the event is that they didn't hire a rock band to play the soundtrack moments from the film live. I know it might be too much to expect Huey Lewis and The News to be at these events live to play "The Power Of Love." (How cool would that have been?) They could have gotten a live house band to play 'Johnny B. Goode' and the other rock music on the soundtrack instead of just relying on the video playback.

It is worth noting that in addition to the band in the video playback, the orchestra played the 'Earth Angel' sequence following George and Loraine's climactic kiss.


Cast And Crew in Attendance

Of course, this being Hollywood, some of the film's cast and crew was in attendance. This included the film's producer and writer Bob Gale, co-producer Neil Canton, director of photography Dean Cundey, Donald Fullilove, who played Goldie Wilson, Claudia Wells, who played Jennifer Parker, Lea Thompson, who played Lorraine Baines, and Christopher Lloyd, who played Dr. Emmett Brown.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 1.47.28 AM

The Audience Can Sometimes Be Annoying

I mentioned earlier that the audience was great in all the right moments, but they were also slightly annoying at other moments. Some would laugh loudly at the set-ups of jokes or plot points, seemingly only to let everyone around them know they know what's coming. This might be more of a Los Angeles reaction, although I'm not entirely sure.

Another thing that annoyed me about the audience is that more than half decided it was time to leave as the credits began. This might be a common practice in movie theaters, but it seems far more disrespectful to leave a live concert as the orchestra is up on stage performing the last couple pieces of music. It's almost as if the audience forgot that dozens of musicians were playing the credit music for them live on stage.

Final Thoughts

Back to the Future In Concert was a fantastic experience. I wouldn't normally think I'd ever see another Back to the Future screening that could possibly top it, but Secret Cinema has announced plans to bring their experience to Los Angeles sometime this year.

It was an extreme pleasure to hear Alan Silvestri's score played by a live orchestra, but it was almost as wonderful to experience the movie again with 16,000 other fans. Some were dressed up as Marty, Doc or their other favorite side characters from the trilogy. The Hollywood Bowl had two time machine replicas, as well as a replica of Marty's Toyota 4x4, which made for great photo ops.

Here are some more photos from the event: