CinemaCon: Del Toro, Stone, Raimi on Importance of Theater Experience

Oliver Stone, Sam Raimi and Guillermo del Toro
Ethan Miller

LAS VEGAS -- Director Oliver Stone generated enthusiastic applause when he urged theater owners to maintain quality, including light and sound levels.

“It's not good,” he said, speaking on a filmmakers panel, Wednesday at CinemaCon. “I went to see a digital screening of The Avengers last year. … It was awful. I could barely see it.”

He believes that if they maintain high quality “the audience will be loyal to you forever, because it will be different from the home.”

“Our work rests with you,” added Guillermo del Toro, who with Sam Raimi rounded out the panel. “We’ll make the story as great as we can, and [the presentation] rests in your hands.”

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On available technical choices, including 3D, high frame rates and immersive sound, del Toro summed up that filmmakers want choices: “Every project brings its own demands. Creativity needs to drive the discussion. One single brush is limiting; you want the option to choose."

Raimi urged the creation of sound standards when the conversation shifted to audio.

Noting that he used Dolby Atmos and Barco Auro for Oz: The Great and Powerful, Raimi said, “Both systems are great. I hope [exhibitors] put them in theaters. They create sonic dimension, and I don’t think home systems will have this for a quite a while.”

But he warned that studios haven’t started to account for the extra time that will be needed during post-production to accommodate the different formats. “You need to do different mixes,” he explained. "I hope we settle on fewer formats. It is very complicated to maintain the quality over different formats. I hope a standard will come out soon, and get rid of two track and maybe 5.1."

During discussion of effects-driven tentpoles, Stone said: “I don't see the difference between action movies. It is repetitive. Frankly, it becomes a form of torture for the eyes. ... I think--story, story, story. Content is king. Style gets tiring without story.”

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Del Toro agreed, adding: “The number of [visual effects] shots doesn't matter. It’s the purpose of the narrative.”

The filmmakers also discussed the emotion a film can bring an audience from a theater experience -- the strongest responses including laughter and fear. “It’s a great communal experience,” del Toro said of the theater. “The real reward [for a filmmaker] comes from seeing it with an audience.”

“Horror needs to push buttons,” he said. “It comes with the genre."

“I like tension over horror," Stone related. "I think tension keeps audiences in their seats."

“I think true horror is the displacement of things that don't make sense,” he said, adding of Life of Pi, “I was scared seeing that boy in the boat with the tiger."