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Theater Owners CEO Says '12 Years A Slave' Was "Too Unequivocally Intense To Watch In A Cinema"

The Playlist By Cain Rodriguez | The Playlist March 26, 2014 at 9:05AM

Despite at least two Academy voters admitting to not seeing Steve McQueen’s harrowing “12 Years A Slave”—they ended up voting for the film anyway—the unflinching portrait of slavery scored the Best Picture trophy thanks to voters unafraid to view our nation’s dark past. But with the prevalence of screeners in Oscar campaigns, how many actually made the trek to watch this tragic story in a room full of strangers on the big screen? Maybe some recent comments made by the president-CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners can give us a clue.
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12 Years A Slave

Despite at least two Academy voters admitting to not seeing Steve McQueen’s harrowing “12 Years A Slave”—they ended up voting for the film anyway—the unflinching portrait of slavery scored the Best Picture trophy thanks to voters unafraid to view our nation’s dark past. But with the prevalence of screeners in Oscar campaigns, how many actually made the trek to watch this tragic story in a room full of strangers on the big screen? Maybe some recent comments made by the president-CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners can give us a clue.

According to THR, during a speech at CinemaCon—the annual industry event for theater owners—NATO (not that one) president John Fithian revealed to the crowd of exhibitors that he couldn’t bring himself to watch McQueen’s film in a theater, saying “it was the only movie of the nine nominated for best picture that I didn’t watch on the big screen. It’s not that I didn’t consider the movie worthy of watching. Quite the contrary. ‘12 Years a Slave’ constitutes one of the most important movies of our generation. It’s simply that, for me, the movie was too unequivocally intense to watch in a cinema, so I waited and watched it home.”

No doubt realizing the irony of the head of a group historically against the home video market admitting his preference to watching movies in the comfort of his own home, Fithian defended his decision as “a personal admission to make a point about the cinema experience. Our members’ cinemas offer the most intense, technically advanced, real-life visual and audio environments ever experienced. For eight of the nine nominated movies and dozens of other films during the year, the cinema was the place for me. For one movie, the intensity of the cinema would have been too much.” 

What do you folks think? Are there films that are just ill-suited to the full-fledged theatrical experience? Are there any films you’ve personally skipped because you felt they would have been too intense of an experience? Is this a troubling indication from the folks at NATO that they are letting studio chiefs know they'd rather have more spectacle and less drama? Let us know below.

This article is related to: 12 Years a Slave


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