In this essay I will be looking at how cinema used to be an attraction of the time and whether it is still considered an attraction now-a-days. I’ll be looking at two articles that relate to this topic, Cinema of Attraction by Tom Gunning and Cinema of Attraction Reloaded by Wanda Strauven. Tom Gunning’s ‘Cinema of Attraction’ follows the idea that cinema becomes more narratively based after 1906/7 and that the idea that Cinema is no longer an attraction. Pre-1906/7 people would normally visit cinemas to see the technology of film rather than go to see a narrative film.
Wanda Strauvan’s ‘Cinema of Attractions Reload’ looks at the same topics as Tom Gunning’s ‘Cinema of Attraction’ as well as looking at more modern cinema to see if its still an attraction in the eyes of todays audiences. ‘Cinema of Attraction Reloaded’ also looks at a number of other articles that can relate to the topic of whether cinema is not an attraction of modern times, which include Malte Hagener’s ‘Programming Attractions’ and ‘The Hollywood Cobweb: New Laws of Attraction’ by Dick Tomasovic
Before cinemas, audiences would have to visit town halls, cafes or even traveling fairgrounds to see the spectacle of film, many of these early exhibition films didn’t follow a narrative but instead allowed the audience to be captivated through the technology and the movement of the picture, Within ‘Cinema of attractions’ Tom Gunning states that ‘the cinema of attractions directly solicits spectator attention, inciting visual curiosity and supplying pleasure through an exciting spectacle’ this means that audiences would visit a cinema for the experience of seeing film and new technology rather than seeing it because it was a narrative based film. With the unimportance of narrative film making, showmen who had cinema in their fairground or circus would often re-edit the footage that they had purchased, by doing this, it shows that audience of this time would go to the cinema to see the technology/spectacle of film, showmen would also have offscreen sound effects and even spoken commentary of the film on view adding to the cinema experience.
Many of these early films broke the fourth wall by having character look directly at the camera, comedians would give cheeky looks and smile towards the camera, by doing this the audience knows that it is just a film however when narrative based films became increasingly popular, film-makers began to focus on the editing, trying to create a film that was seamless so it would captivate an audience through this method, they also believed that having the character in the film break the fourth wall would ruin the ‘realistic film experience’ for audiences. After narrative films begin to take over audiences we see that the attraction of cinema starts to fade as people want to see more narrative based films rather then experimental pieces.
Post-1906/7 saw film become more narrative based meaning that audiences would no longer visit cinema for the spectacle of the technology but rather for the narratives themselves, this could be seen as the end of ‘cinema of attractions’ however according to Tom Gunning ‘Cinema of Attractions does not disappear with the dominance of narrative, but rather goes underground, both into certain avant-garde practices and as a component of narrative film’, I have to agree with what Gunning has said for the main reason that experimental films are still being made available in cinemas, art galleries and exhibitions that are enjoyed by a selective audience who seeks them out, also as special effects become a part of nearly all films, this can be seen as a new spectacle as it becomes an attraction that brings audiences back to the cinema Cinema of attraction’ talks about how after 1906/7 cinema begins to focus on narrative based films and the style of editing to attract an audience however I feel this is not the case, in 2009, James Cameron released ‘Avatar’ which isn’t a strong narrative film but instead used 3D technology to become one of the highest grossing films, at the time 3D was the new spectacle that everyone had to see.
What also made this spectacle so popular with audiences was the attention it received from the media praising how good the technology was making the public visit cinemas to look at the technology not the narrative of the film, turning cinema back to an attraction. In conclusion I believe that the idea of ‘cinema of attractions’ did not end with the popularization of narrative based films after 1906/7 but that it is still an important element in todays cinema experience through new special effects and technologies, such as 3D or IMAX films that captivate audiences which draws them into cinemas