In the past we used to have a clear distinction between TV productions and theatrical movies. You’d go to the movies to watch something high quality, great productions made even more unforgettable by the high definition provided by the film used for the shooting, by the quality of the Dolby surround audio and by the impressive size of the screen.
TV on the contrary would focus on faster productions, aimed more at generating loyalty among viewers than shocking them with production values. We used to say that TV (as opposite to theatrical productions), had to be “Fast & Superficial”, quick and lighthearted. And ready to move to the following program.
But things have quickly changed. A wealthier society, the reduction of production and technology costs, the rise of pay TV introducing hundreds of channels all in the need of differentiating themselves provided boost to change.
In this new world the programming aired every night in our houses are often at the same level of the best Film Festivals and we watch them with a quality not far from many movie theaters.
In fact theaters have slowly lost appeal. There are obviously wonderful exceptions and some movies should be seen in theatres by law! But often we find ourselves in ridiculously small theatres with so small screens that you regret your home TV system. Eight rows of seats, avoiding the paper cups on the floor while a heavy popcorn smell attacks your nose.
The combination of digital quality, High Definition, sometimes 3D and soon 4K gives also the TV producers the possibility to distinguish themselves not only for the quality of screenwriting but also for the level of production.
As a result even great movie stars have overcome the prejudices about TV and are now ready to join prestigious TV series.
When Alfred Hitchcock decided to write, direct and oversee the TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (which became a never ending success), it was seen as a scandal. Today we are getting used to see actors like Matt Dillon. Kevin Spacey and Helen Mirren, become main characters of our serial TV nights.
And they too are experiencing the firepower of TV in attributing popularity and standing like once only theatrical movies could do. As it happened to those popular TV actors that got the chance to move to Cinema production.
As a matter of fact the qualitative borders between these two worlds have fallen. Also the difference in the “format” got reduced, thanks to the passion of the big movie producers for the “franchise”, meaning the possibility of generating a number of movies starting from a single successful concept.
Producing and launching a movie is always a very expensive enterprise with results impossible to foresee. For each movie that becomes a worldwide success there are hundreds that go through the theatres leaving little behind them (but costing a lot).
It is even worse if the story of the film is completely new (I know the film doesn’t exist anymore but it is so beautiful to call it like this – and this is another difference with TV that doesn’t exist anymore…). Here the effort for the distributor is twice so hard because he has to promote everything from scratch convincing us to give a chance to something we don’t know at all.
If, on the contrary, we had in the past a successful story, the producer will feel irresistible to produce a sequel or even a prequel. With the advantage of reusing part of the production assets and producing a simplified marketing plan. Because he can count on tribes of viewers that are already engaged with this content.
Moreover he can move again the commercial machine that involves also the previous movies and coterminous products (DVD, On Demand sales, soundtracks, theme parks rides, videogames, sales to networks). This is the reason why the producers seem tireless in remaking Jurassic Parks, Rambos, Bonds, Potters and Hobbits.
And these “serial” movies make the theatres experience more and more similar to the big and expected TV Series.
The worldwide TV market nowadays allows also TV series to justify massive investments. So even in TV you see now the birth of wonderful stories with first choice directors and actors that have nothing less than what you find in the movies.
So it happens, as it happened, to the masterpiece “Gomorra – The Series”, that after becoming an enormous TV success, it got screened into theatres with an ‘event’ programming of two episodes every night.
With Gomorra, and even before with the series “Romanzo Criminale”, Italy proved to still have
high quality production assets that we thought were gone forever. For many years it was said that our series were too provincial, unable to engage audiences in other countries, thus unable to justify important investments.
Wrong! Here is the evidence that we can do it. An experience financed by Sky Italia (well done!) which should be followed also by those who keep producing only local dramas about Saints, seamen and other great Italians of our history.
There’s nothing wrong in doing that of course. However that quality, that screenwriting is not up-to-date with this era.
And for sure won’t ever end up screened in theaters.