Millennial fantasies As anyone interested in film culture knows, the last decade has witnessed an explosion of pronouncements concerning the future of cinema. Many are fuelled by naked technological determinism, resulting in apocalyptic scenarios in which cinema either undergoes digital rebirth to emerge more powerful than ever in the new millennium, or is marginalised by a range of ‘new media’ which inevitably include some kind of broadband digital pipe capable of delivering full screen ‘cinema quality’ pictures on demand to home consumers. The fact that the doubleedged possibility of digital renaissance or death by bytes has coincided with celebrations of the ‘centenary of cinema’ has undoubtedly accentuated desire to reflect more broadly on the history of cinema as a social and cultural institution. It has also intersected with a significant transformation of film history, in which the centrality of ‘narrative’ as the primary category for uniting accounts of the technological, the economic and the aesthetic in film theory, has become subject to new questions. Writing in 1986 Thomas Elsaesser joined the revisionist project concerning ‘early cinema’ to cinema’s potential demise: ‘A new interest in its beginnings is justified by the very fact that we might be witnessing the end: movies on the big screen could soon be the exception rather than the rule’.1 Of course, Elsaesser’s speculation, which was largely driven by the deregulation of television broadcasting in Europe in conjunction with the emergence of new technologies such as video, cable and satellite in the 1980s, has been contradicted by the decade long cinema boom in the multiplexed 1990s.2 It has also been challenged from another direction, as the giant screen ‘experience’ of large format cinema has been rather unexpectedly transformed from a bit player into a prospective force. However, in the same article, Elsaesser raised another... [continues]
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