The legacy of a long shelf life
This June, the Brian DaPalma directed Scarface(1983), written by Oliver Stone, starring Al Pacino, in arguably his most iconic role, post Godfather, celebrates its 35th anniversary. The Prince Charles Cinema in London marked this on the 7th of June by screening the film.
Scarface is one of those films most people can quote without actually ever seen the film. Since its release the poster has adorned the walls of bedrooms and college dorms. Been homaged and referenced by rappers in their lyrics, music videos, album covers and even personas. There has been a remake in the works, with Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua attached,if this still happens, it that would make it the 3rd incarnation of the character, the first being the 1932 Howard Hawks movie of the same name.
Several 80s movies have celebrated their 30th anniversaries in the last 10 years: Predator, Terminator, Commando, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Back to the Future amongst others. Some releasing anniversary edition Blu Ray discs and special screenings which sell out fast.
Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994) celebrated its 20th anniversary with a Blu Ray Deluxe Collector’s Box Set containing: Pulp Fiction on Blu-ray, A rigid, hinged suitcase-style box,Jack Rabbit Slim’s menu, Zed’s keyring, Big Kahuna Burger bag,20 Pulp Fiction banknotes and 4 art cards. pielberg’s Jurassic Park(1993) got a 20th anniversary 3D release in theatre, giving millenials who saw it when they were 11-13 and are now parents,the chance to share it with their children.
This begs the question. Why would people who’ve seen these films, own them on VHS/DVD, still purchase a Blu Ray and see it in the cinema ? What is it about certain films which give them a shelf life which ascends beyond entertainment to cultural landmarks? What makes some films have an anniversary release and others released at the same time are forgotten once they leave the cinema and not really considered worth buying on VHS/DVD/Blu Ray?
Simple answer? There are Rewatchable. When a film is rewatchable, purchasing an ancillary unit is more likely, revisiting the cinema to watch it while its initial run, as many people did with Black Panther and Infinity Wars, taking their friends along and seeing it for a 3, 4 and even 7th time. No doubt they will get these films on Blu Ray .
Nollywood films, unlike Hollywood, started on VHS and then went to cinema. The youngest of people who saw: Living in Bondage, Rattlesnake, Diamond Ring, Glamour Girls, Ti Oluwa Nile immediately they were release were at the least in their mid to late 20s when they first watched a Nigerian film in this new era of cinema watching, but few films appeal to them in the way those previous film did,
Those films are cited as some of the most memorable and listed as most adored Nollywood classics. But will today’s films be spoke about the same way in 30 years?It would seem a lot of films made today intend to ride/cash in on a trend and not for longevity. Made to make as much money in a 5 – 6 week run, than make money over many years. Shelf life is not often considered as these films ride on the social media popularity of certain cast members who don’t have the acting capability to carry the role and make it something worth revisiting in 2038 by a generation who don’t know or care how many views that person got on instagram in 2018. While beating piracy plays a role in how quickly producers want to recover money, it can’t be blamed for underwritten scripts and gimmick based casting.
Depending on their agreements(SAG,DGA), actors and directors get paid residuals when these anniversary discs are released, something we need to find a way to do here,once we tackle the demon of piracy; beyond that, there’s something powerful about audiences, old and new, still being excited to watch a film you made 30 years ago, with the same level of excitement as when it was fresh out of the oven and you had no idea how it would be received.
Not all films will be rewatchable nor will have a shelf life which lasts decades, but all films should aim for that. Films which transcends generations and can be shared between parent and child and in cases of films like The Sound of Music, from grandparent to grandchild. This can only be done when great storytelling is the aim and not simply wanting to ride a trend, capitalize on the popularity of persona and storytelling becomes an afterthought.
If for nothing else, the financials should be a motivation. Picture this, getting a residual cheque at age 55 for a movie you made at 25; being invited to Q&A sessions special screenings paid honorarium and wild fan appreciation, 30 years after announcing, “it’s a wrap.” There is something magical about that kind of legacy.
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