American film culture has always been one to recognize anniversaries of important films and give them some attention they perhaps haven’t had for a while. But ever since the cable TV universe expanded to hundreds of channels in the last 20 years, some movies have had a chance to be in perpetual play mode almost to a point of being an ad that people assimilate into their subconscious. It doesn’t seem to matter if many of those airings are on cable channels with constant commercial breaks every 10 minutes; people still tune in if perhaps becoming a background while doing something else.
Two movies celebrating their 20th and 30th anniversaries together are already racking up some of the most plays on TV of any other movies. Since the late 1990s, “Forrest Gump” seems to have had considerable play on just about every basic cable channel, and seemingly on TBS. How many times have you tuned in (even in the middle of it) and kept it on because you knew you probably wouldn’t find much of anything else other than reality shows? Because you’d already seen it 100 times before, you probably went on and did some household chores while you waited for your favorite scenes.
You can say the same about the first “Ghostbusters” that seems to give you a fun pop culture feeling just having it on as movie wallpaper than paying attention to every detail. And even when you do sit and watch every detail, you end up seeing things you didn’t remember from the last time you saw it five or more years ago. This isn’t to say you won’t find many who know every detail already and just tune in to play again as you would a favorite song.
With this kind of love for these movies, you can see why the original studios behind them think there’s still money to be made re-releasing them in a theater. Now “Forrest Gump” is going to be re-released this summer in IMAX format of all things. It’s a format that you wouldn’t expect for “Gump” considering how much of a character study it is. Then again, the Vietnam battle scenes might be impressive when seen in IMAX, if not even if Forrest’s famous nationwide running marathon.
We have to assume the film won’t look distorted considering it was made before mainstream movies were placed into IMAX format. If anything, you’d think “Ghostbusters” would have been more spectacular in IMAX, despite being much older and needing digital upgrades to not look grainy when enlarged. Instead, “Ghostbusters” will receive just an ordinary theatrical re-release this August in very limited engagements.
Will the public show up to these, or will all those TV airings turn them into such familiar pop culture movies that we can only watch them in the periphery?
The Theater Experience vs. Television
A long time back, I went to see “The Wizard of Oz” and “Lawrence of Arabia” on the big screen after having seen them only on TV for years. The latter was more than worth it, namely because it was made for the big screen, plus had extra footage restored especially for the new theatrical re-release. “The Wizard of Oz”” also played differently, particularly its IMAX re-release last year in 3D that somehow turned out better than I and everyone else thought.
Some movies are done in specific ways where they have to be seen in a movie theater, no matter how many times you’ve already memorized every scene and line. Nevertheless, the least studios can do is to add some extras to the theatrical re-releases to give you a feeling of seeing something fresh rather than just re-hash. You have to assume “Forrest Gump” had plenty of extra footage that could be restored and give fans something to look for in the IMAX format. The same goes with “Ghostbusters.”
Then there’s also just rekindling the feeling you had when first seeing them in a movie theater. Those alive in 1994 and 1984 remember what it was like seeing “Forrest Gump” and “Ghostbusters” for the first time. Some people may prefer keeping that memory intact without having to re-create it in a different format or theater. Others may find enough there where it feels like time travel and you’re 20 or 30 years back in time watching in a theater again.
Enough time has passed, though, where “Forrest Gump” and “Ghostbusters” have turned into peripheral pop culture staples where we love having them on TV on a regular basis. At this point, perhaps we can call them theatrical trees. Through that analogy, we may recognize their importance, yet we take them for granted and expect them to always be there.
Once cable stops showing them regularly, we’ll finally realize how significant some movies really are to our lives.