When Doctor Who celebrated its 50th anniversary, the BBC included the ability to see the episode, “The Day of the Doctor”, in movie theaters thanks to a partnership with Fathom Events. In preparation for the start of series 9, they’re partnering again – this time, for the re-broadcast of the two-part finale of series 8 on September 15 & 16. To encourage more attendance, the screening will include a special prequel to series 9 – “The Doctor’s Meditation” – as well as an interview with stars Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman with geek icon Wil Wheaton.
The idea of doing a live screening in movie theaters isn’t a new one. Fathom Events have now been partnering with various organizations since 2002, showing everything from the Metropolitan Opera to boxing matches to RiffTrax Live. And the options have only been growing in the past year or so, with Fathom Events not the only company doing it.
But why are they so popular? On certain events, it’s understandable. After all, it was through National Theatre Live that I got the only chance I would ever get to see their production of Frankenstein that starred Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch, and the only way I’ll get to see Cumberbatch’s Hamlet in October. A theatre nerd, I embraced these opportunities, such as the production of Company that starred Neil Patrick Harris back in 2011. It also helped that it typically contains additional content you wouldn’t get attending live, such as interviews with the cast and crew and tours of the backstage area.
But the increase of broadcasting old films or television shows is different. Doctor Who isn’t the only show doing this – Steven Moffat announced at San Diego Comic-Con that the upcoming Sherlock Christmas special will also be broadcast in cinemas, and I remember attending a screening of the musical episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer back in 2007. These are broadcasts you can catch in the comfort of your own home, so why the interest?
Having attended the 50th anniversary in a theater, I can state that it’s more than just a broadcast. As with theatrical productions, there’s a sense of ‘event’ about it, and as with any fan-related event, there’s a sense of community in attending something like this in a theater. When I attended the viewing of “The Day of the Doctor”, there were fans wearing everything from the simple 11th Doctor/Matt Smith fez all the way up to a full cosplay of River Song. There were obvious friends talking to each other, but there were also people introducing themselves based on costume/t-shirt choices, sharing conversations of who their first Doctor was, and how long they’ve been a fan.
Like any event, there needs to be a reason behind it: an explanation for why THIS episode of THIS show is getting this sort of treatment. I don’t think it would be as successful for, say, the fifth episode of the ninth season of Supernatural (although the idea of seeing Dean Winchester act like a dog on the big screen IS somewhat compelling).
The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who was an event. Because the episodes are so rare, the Christmas special of Sherlock will also be an event. The series 8 finale of Doctor Who? I’m not so sure. With all the options that media can be delivered nowadays, having television turned into an event is one way to peak interest. But i’m afraid that if it’s done too often, it will end up being just a phase.
For more information on the big screen showing of Doctor Who: Dark Water/Death in Heaven, including times and locations of theatres partnering, visit Fathom Events’ website.
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