I don’t get to go to the cinema as often as I used to. Having a toddler makes it more difficult to just head out on a whim and the fact that my other half works away several days a week makes it even more difficult. Add to that the fact that going to the cinema is not the cheap night out it once was and I find myself often watching films weeks and even months after their first release. Sometimes I only see things when the DVD comes out.
I don’t really mind this because I’ve noticed something; I’m not as disappointed with films half as much as I used to be. Time was we’d go to the cinema once a week; we used to take advantage of Orange Wednesdays and see films just a few days after their premier. Seeing films this way used to mean going in on the back of hype and advertising and often the films didn’t live up to this raised level of expectations.
With the numerous trailers, interviews, reports and clips we get with each new film release these days, the advertising juggernaut is often huge and the hype is often far in excess of the actual film. You know when a film comes out and everyone has been really looking forward to it and you’re there on opening night with your popcorn and the film ends up being a disappointment. I pretty much get to avoid that these days.
Seeing films a few weeks or months after their initial release means I’ve had to time to read a few reviews, I’ve seen and heard other people’s opinions and most often my expectations are tempered by this exposure. I’m not saying I go into films knowing every little detail or that I wait until I’ve been spoiled on every plot point. I just mean that I’ve had a chance to see what people really think of things after the hype has died down. I’m not saying I believe every single review and opinion; I mean, we’re all different and what one loves others might hate, but I do find that all these varying thoughts help me to expect less, which I think is a good thing.
A couple of weekends ago I watched two films for the first time. The first was The World’s End which I saw three weeks after it’s cinema release and the second was Oblivion on DVD. Off the back of trailers and clips I was very excited to see both films, but one thing or another meant I was slow in seeing them and I’d read reviews and opinion prior to both and so my excitement died down a bit. Neither film was terrible but opinion on both was a little less than brilliant. Both had issues and I lowered my expectations accordingly. And when I saw the films I enjoyed the hell out of both of them. They were both far better than I was expecting. You see, knowing about people’s issues going in often makes you expect a film to be worse than it turns out to be. If you lower your expectations far enough everything is brilliant.
When I hear that a film is bad, even if I’m really looking forward to it, I still want to see it, but I go in with my lowered expectations and I’m often pleasantly surprised, even if a film is just okay this lowering of expectation and getting out from under the hype is still a good thing. Except with Prometheus ; no amount of lowered expectations prepared me for that pile of dross.
So, I guess I’m saying I don’t miss premier nights. I don’t miss going to cinema every week and I’m quite happy to let everyone else go see a film and wait to see what the general opinion is before I go myself. I’m happy to treat everyone in my social media contacts as my big litmus testers.
My new way of watching films does make me wonder whether the level of hype some films pre-release advertising generates is harmful to films. I understand the need for advertising and trailers. I understand the companies have to generate interest in their films but can any of them really live up to the expectations? What do you think? Is the advertising on modern films overdoing it? Are they shooting themselves in the foot a bit with all the hype? Is waiting a few weeks and seeing the hype die down a good thing? Are you a premier night film goer or have you taken a wait and see approach to your cinema going life like me?