Sparking Ideas on the Future of Cinema

One of our board members wanted to share a quick blurb on alternative creative cinematic experiences that are outside mainstream and theme park conventions.

I attended an event called Optronica presented by Other Cinema at the Artists’ Television Access here in San Francisco. Among those featured, were performances of John Davis, Jim Haynes and Allison Holt. The theme of the event focused on waves and frequency seen through the choice of archival films, which also combined live synth vibration ambience. The underlying concept was examining the roles of film and the theater.

I sat as I was being massaged by the deep throbbing low frequency oscillators, staring through prism “3D” glasses at an old 16mm Kodachrome experimental and wondered about the future of cinema. San Francisco has abandoned movie theaters almost everywhere and still a good number of art house theaters stay active in relatively high density. In this part of town (Mission District), you can only imagine then that movies came out at one theater only, but you could also stroll down the street to catch a different movie and get a different theater experience.

Newer films with higher budgets and distribution power combined with bigger and more commercial theaters make movies seem like fast food, and maybe the same in some cases no matter where you are in the world. Of course, some could argue that it was the standardization in theaters like THX sound that ensured you got the maximum quality experience for your buck.

Television isn’t far behind now that home theaters are increasingly popular and filled with devices that make content available for anyone to stream online. At some level, movie theaters are losing their appeal, while the more independent filmmakers are struggling to keep it alive. Bigger and more high-end theaters release new 3D films with higher frame rates, like the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), to keep us coming back, but viral and cheap YouTube keeps getting all the views.

Where do we turn? How can the movie theater experience live on? Let’s ask our friend in a band to play along. Live music has stayed popular from day 1 of the human experience, and has also been an in-house supplement to viewers experiences since the Silent Era, so when we combine other things like dancing, opera, stage, or live music, we get another way to experience art.

So the people at Other Cinema have it figured out! Play some live music with almost anything and people will appreciate it and know they can only get it at a theater. Cinema will last as a classical art form when the experience is versatile, live, and mastered as a technology. I really appreciate the ATA for hosting the Other Cinema event, Optronica.

About Other Cinema: Other Cinema is a long-standing bastion of experimental film, video, and performance in San Francisco’s Mission District. We are inspired and sustained by the ongoing practice of fine-art filmmaking, as well as engaged essay and documentary forms. But OC also embraces marginalized genres like “orphan” industrial films, home movies, ethnography, and exploitation, as media-archeological core-samples, and blows against consensus reality and the sterility of museum culture. (Source: Other Cinema website)

About The ATA: The Artists’ Television Access is Artists’ Television Access is a San Francisco-based, artist-run, non-profit organization that cultivates and promotes culturally-aware, underground media and experimental art. We provide an accesible screening venue and gallery for the exhibition of programmed and guest-curated screenings, exhibitions, performances, and events. We believe in fostering a supportive community for the exhibition of innovative art and the exchange of non-conformist ideas. (Source: ATA website)

About The Author: John Espey grew up fascinated with the natural world and video. He independently studied insects and physical phenomena through college, where he also acquired a Bachelor Of Science in Biology. He continued his video art throughout school and graduated fully diving into a film career. He has worked on international feature films; as well as on commercial and industrial sets in Silicon Valley, and documentaries produced by Discovery and National Geographic. He creates video installations and sculpture at Merchants Of Reality — an artist studio and gallery in San Francisco, where he is also an active partner, regularly curating shows.

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