x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The arts at the movies

The multiplex has recently broadened to provide much more than the latest blockbusters. We look at the various art forms from around the word coming to the silver screen.

Coldplay perform in Abu Dhabi last New Year's Eve. Delores Johnson / The National
Coldplay perform in Abu Dhabi last New Year's Eve. Delores Johnson / The National

Over the past five years, the landscape of cinema has changed dramatically. Digital 3D films are not only possible, they have become commonplace among most big-budget movies and both the quality and clarity of what we see and hear on the big screen have increased.

However, there is also a quiet revolution happening, turning your cinema into a venue for more than just, well, cinema. The British rock gods Coldplay will play to a very different live audience when their concert film, Coldplay Live 2012, shows in a special one-night-only performance on November 13 at Vox Cinemas.

Chris Martin and company are not the only stars to take advantage of this new way of reaching fans. Some of the greatest musicians, playwrights, sport stars and stage actors have found their audiences widened to just about anyone in the world, as unique live recordings of everything from football games to the latest opera have become popular to patrons.

The music industry is already familiar with using cinemas to help their acts reach an audience far beyond the borders of the concert venue. Led Zeppelin, U2, Bon Jovi and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour have all recently broadcast their concerts to cinemas across the world, and the trend shows no sign of abating. In addition to the forthcoming Coldplay showing, The Rolling Stones recently broadcast a 1978 concert in Texas and plans are afoot for dates from their forthcoming 50th anniversary tour to be shown at cinemas worldwide.

But it’s not all rock ’n’ roll. Perhaps the most logical art form to be shown at cinemas has come from the stage, with screenings of theatre and opera performances becoming more commonplace. A few months ago, the smash hit musical The Merchants of Bollywood played to large audiences at cinemas across the region.

The trend has become so popular that many renowned production companies have made their productions available in this format. The largest success story internationally has come from the National Theatre in the UK – Danny Boyle’s celebrated London production of Frankenstein, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. Screenings across Europe have consistently sold out and prompted companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company to follow suit.

The Met in New York recently held a “cine-cast” of Wagner’s Ring Cycle to venues in the Middle East to great fanfare. Next year, the Italian musical T’ammore will be broadcast live from Umbria to local cinemas, along with the Italian dance troupe Gaelforce Dance as part of the Cine Arts Live season, while The Met has a whole series of productions (including Shakespeare’s The Tempest) currently touring screens around the world.

All of these new cinematic experiences offer something unique to the public by bringing the best of the arts from around the world to their doorstep, in both an affordable and familiar setting.

Outside of the arts, sport has found an unlikely home on the big screen in the past few years, with many major tournaments being screened for fans. Football, rugby and cricket cups, European football championships and of course this year’s Olympics have all been screened to spectators eager to catch the big match excitement without travelling across the globe for the privilege. With most European countries flocking to crowded bars to watch televised sport, Abu Dhabi, in particular, has led the way in embracing big-screen sport and providing a family-friendly atmosphere, making must-see events even more special.

In an age when there are more competitors for our attention than ever before, it appears that the variety of experiences available – be they musical, sporting, theatrical or plain old cinematic – mean your local cinema is still at the forefront of the entertainment industry and will be far into the future. In addition to bringing audiences to new art forms, theatre, sport and music fans can also be drawn back to a cinema experience they may have not considered before. A truly win-win situation.