This post is written in anticipation of the new release of Ben Wheatley’s film, A Field in England (2013), which is centred upon rural England during the period of civil war. Critics, such as those established names based at the Guardian and Variety, have already witnessed the previews and have reviewed the film. However, what is most interesting for me is the release strategy, which is described as “radical” by one of his largest fiscal backers, Film4.
The release strategy is rather unique and pertains to a newly developed strategy, which takes into account the developing shifts in technology and the proliferation of cinematic repositories (which I have previously outlined and considered in a previous post). It is these repositories that open up the film to a longer life beyond its screening on the cinematic screen and also enables a dissemination to larger audiences over an extended period of time. Television pre-acquisitions provide a salient level of fiscal contribution to independent film projects. A Field in England is one of the first films to benefit from the newly created BFI New Model Distribution Fund Strand, which was primarily set up to support experimental film projects in terms of their distribution. As a consequence, A Field in England will be released on a number of different media platforms simultaneously, such as the Picturehouse cinema chain (one of the fiscal backer’s of the film alongside Film4), the Freeview film channel Film4, and the online Video on Demand (VoD) service, 4DVD. This strategy thereby engenders a consideration of the different cinema repositories in order to analyse the potential avenues of film exhibition and exploitation in the future. It asks the questions: What is the most prominent platform for film release? And will people still flock to the cinema’s when it is possible to watch the same film on the small screen instead? Is there still some nostalgic value attached to the cinematic experience? These questions will no doubt be answered tomorrow evening upon the film’s release (5th July), allbeit on a micro- scale.
Each of these cinematic repositories retains a particular value, and the levels of the film consumption are completely dependent upon the whims of the spectator. There is of course a certain value attributed to the cinema; the big screen, the convivial sense of spectatorship, the sentiments of ‘going out’ to name a few. The expense of going to the cinema, however, is often a factor when a decision is made to attend; the cost of the ticket, the travel to the cinema, the annoyance of the twenty minutes of trailers at the film’s commencement and all the nourishing items that you will no doubt consume at the same time. This will function in contradistinction to how the film will be consumed on Film4, a Freeview channel with no cost to consume the film. The spectator will have the benefit of a free-to-air newly released cinematic product (without the potential parlous ramifications of streaming online, i.e. piracy) on their small screen in their front room. However, the spectator will be subjected to a compressed experience of the visual delights on screen and a less all-encompassing aural extravaganza. There are also the possibilities of paying to watch the film at your convenience on your PC, tablet or even phone – a further evolution of the cinema experience. The pros and cons remain with all of the platforms, but it will be telling to see how we decide to consume a film that is open to all methods of consumption at the same time. My decision is one that I am sure will be met with a sense of disapproval amongst film studies academics, but I have opted for the TV.
[CORRECTION on 5th July 22.30 – this article initially suggested that there would be advert breaks inserted during the screening of the film. However, Film4 on Twitter on 5th July stated that there are not going to be adverts during the airing of film].