Theatrical re-release of film classics can be a win-win

By Jeffrey Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 3 2012 10:00 a.m. MDT

Simba and Rafiki in "The Lion King."

Disney

It’s official. Just like comic book movies and Channing Tatum, re-releases of older films are here to stay.

After desperately looking for franchises, tentpoles, remakes, reboots, prequels and sequels to avoid the risk of originality, Hollywood may have discovered the safest of all possibilities.

But is the recent trend really a bad one?

Of course, re-releases are nothing new. Up until the late 1980s, it was common practice for movies to reappear in theaters from time to time. Disney’s “Cinderella,” for example, returned to cinemas on five separate occasions between 1957 and 1987.

Although the explosion of home video in the ’90s seemed to make theatrical re-releases obsolete, the recent success of movies like “The Lion King” prove there is still an audience willing to pay for the theater experience.

At an estimated cost of $10 million to cover the digital conversion process, “The Lion King 3D” went on to earn $177 million worldwide last fall, kickstarting the re-release trend. Likewise, earlier this year, the 3-D update of James Cameron’s “Titanic,” which cost $18 million, managed to outperform most of the summer’s would-be blockbusters, pulling in a staggering $343 milllion and setting opening-day records in some overseas markets.

Given these kinds of numbers, it makes sense that studios would be scouring their back catalogs for classic films that can either be converted to 3-D or, as in the case of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” earlier in September, screened as is in anticipation of the film’s Blu-ray release date (“Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures” came out on Sept. 18).

Unsurprisingly, 2013 is already becoming overcrowded with old movies. “Jurassic Park 3D,” “Independence Day 3D,” “Monsters, Inc. 3D” and the remaining two “Star Wars” prequels (also in 3-D) are among the films that will compete for audience attention.

While in many ways this does represent a new low for Hollywood in terms of creativity, the trend of re-releasing movies on the big screen is one that film buffs should be able to — at least partially — get behind.

Mixed in with the obvious cash-grabs, a number of bona fide classics are making their way back to theaters, often in extremely limited runs. This October, for example, Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies will host a lineup that includes one-day-only screenings of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” (Oct. 3), David Lean’s masterful “Lawrence of Arabia” (Oct. 4), and two Universal horror classics, “Frankenstein” and “The Bride of Frankenstein” (Oct. 24).

The films will be shown along with special introductions, including, in some cases, interviews with the filmmakers and cast members.

Similarly, beginning Oct. 25, John Carpenter’s slasher masterpiece “Halloween” will play in its widest release since it debuted nearly 35 years ago. It will be prefaced by the short documentary “You Can’t Kill the Boogeyman: 35 Years of Halloween.”

Ultimately, the trend of re-releasing classic movies on the big screen — the way they were meant to be watched — is a win-win situation for studios and audiences. What’s more, it’s by far the least objectionable pattern in Hollywood’s recent history of trying to minimize risk at the cost of creativity.

Let’s just hope older movies don’t become so profitable that studios entirely give up on making new ones.

For more information on Fathom Events’ fall lineup, including a list of participating theaters, visit fathomevents.com.

A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff is currently studying humanities and history at Brigham Young University.

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