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The Year of The Re-Release: Are we relying on past hits to save cinema and is this short film’s time to shine?

With a sluggish recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, cinemas are struggling to recapture the audience enthusiasm and attendance enjoyed in the five years running up to the 2020 shutdown. There are several reasons for this of course, including the boom of online streaming coupled with the delayed release of big titles due to the writers and actors strikes. But while convenience (and corporations) killed the cat, there is still nothing quite like the excitement of taking a seat in the cinema as lights dim and the big screen begins playing trailers. But with fewer films to rely on in recent months and high profile flops including The Flash, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny among others, it seems like the nostalgia strategy used in the reboots and legacy sequels of recent years has been kicked up a notch. The result? A year of cinema re-releases that may be as crucial to the theatrical experience as the new films. 


Personally, my first cinematic experience was when my grandad took me to the cinema while my mum was at work. We got popcorn, sweets, sat in silence and watched Shrek. Every time I went to the cinema after this, I would smile, being reminded of that very special day. I suspect we have all had a magical cinematic experience that has stuck with us and is usually provoked by a particular film. Sticking with my example – to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Shrek 2 was rereleased on 12th April 2024. Upon the film's original release in May 2004, Shrek 2 shattered box office records, becoming the highest-grossing US opening weekend for an animated feature film. It’s these kind of results new releases increasingly struggle to achieve as our habits have changed dramatically. As such, to maintain the theatrical model that the big studios are built on, past hits are being recruited to bring people in.


What films are being rereleased this year? 

In an environment where the allure of the cinema is diminished for new films given the ubiquity of streaming and the reduced theatrical window, the attraction of the theatrical experience, ironically may lie in films we have already seen and have easy access to. For example, in October, Mean Girls will receive its cinematic re-release, which I’m certain will be welcomed with more enthusiasm than its remake that was released earlier this year. Back in 2004, Mean Girls starring Lindsey Lohan made $130 million at the worldwide box office, whereas its remake in 2024 made just £104 million. How much will Lindsey Lohan’s rerelease make in October?  


The big anniversary re-release, unsurprisingly on May the Fourth this year was Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. This film is being called ‘the box office force’ as at time of publishing, it has made $16.6 million dollars after a week of release—not bad for a film that is a quarter of a century old! 



Other films to be rereleased this year include Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave, Shaun of the Dead, Coraline, Interstellar and all three Lord of the Rings films. You can find a full list of films set to be rereleased in 2024 here.



According to Screen Daily, Doug Davis, the CEO of distributor Park Circus, has commissioned research into the growth of the classic market. The official results haven’t yet been published but Davis did say in a report that Gower Street Analytics found the classics film market had grown between 2022 and 2023 a massive 139% compared to its 2017 and 2019 average. 


So, while cinematic re-release booms, does this leave space for short film cinema to shine? 


While a cinematic trip down memory lane is far from the worst way to spend your time, the big problem that this trend highlights is the continued waning of interest in the theatrical experience. In a nutshell, new movies do not have the ‘event’ status that old movies did. So the issue is not so much the films, but the fact that going to see them needs to feel like an event again if cinema for the masses is going to survive. 


This is where the unexpected hero known as ‘short film’ can finally rise.

 

A little while ago we published a Filmmaker Focus article on Abdou Cissé and Akwasi Poku, the brilliant minds behind short films like Lock Off, The Therapist and the BAFTA nominated Festival of Slaps. The latter was launched with a full on premiere at Curzon Bloomsbury. Additionally, working with Odeon cinemas and amazing distributors We Are Parable, they were able to release their short film Lock Off in 60 sites around the UK.


Additionally, distributors like Network Ireland Television are home to multiple Oscar nominated and Oscar winning short films and Shorts TV annually releases the Oscar nominated short films theatrically in the UK and US. With cinemas around the country increasingly seeking out alternative means of attracting patrons, and filmmakers at the grassroots level able to launch short films theatrically, it stands to reason that coordinated events with built-in audiences can bring that much needed sense of event status back to UK cinemas.


While the ease of watching Hollywood franchise blockbusters has its appeal, the tail-eating nature of the current landscape undermines the exclusivity of the theatrical experience. This would not be the case for event-driven presentations of community-focused short film productions and the inherent enthusiasm that comes with invested followers.


This would look very different to the traditional nationwide campaigns of feature film releases, but with a regional or local focus on the launch of one or more short films, cinemas could capitalise on factors like the attendance of the filmmakers, associated events and promotions, merchandise and more. Short film gives individual cinema sites the opportunity to fully engage with local audiences rather than just maximising market share across the country with films that evidently hold less and less appeal.


What do you think? 

Are we relying on past hits to save cinema? And is this short film’s time to shine on the big screen? 




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