Everybody likes music in some way, shape or form, but not everybody particularly likes going to concerts to hear it. Tickets can be ridiculously overpriced, the venues are usually crowded and smoky, and the music is always so loud your ears ring for the next three days. Compare this to the relative comfort of going to a movie theater. Sure, the prices are pretty ridiculous there, too, but at least you get a seat with a good view of the screen. Wouldn't it be great if you could sort of combine the two experiences?
National Cinemedia, Inc., a joint venture from three of the nation's largest theatrical exhibition companies, certainly seems to think so, and since 2002, the company has been utilizing their digital and satellite technology to present unique in-theater events across the nation. Proudly proclaiming themselves "the only national, digital cinema network," National Cinemedia is indeed the single largest in-theater High Definition network in the world, with over 50 theaters capable of showing live or long form HD content across the nation. In addition to concerts, the company presents sporting events, educational programs, and "world premiere" big-screen exhibitions of DVD releases such as Wedding Crashers, North Country and the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Blues Brothers.
Concerts seem to be their most popular events, with featured artists including Korn, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Prince, Phish, Jimmy Buffett, Bon Jovi, Green Day, Keith Urban and the Rolling Stones. The concerts are typically either broadcast live or shown as a one-night, one-time only event.
Their most recent event was a Beastie Boys concert movie, which was shown across the nation at 8 p.m. local time on March 23. The event, promoted as One Night Only!, began with the world premiere of a short film entitled A Day in the Life of Nathaniel Hornblower. Hornblower, as avid Beastie fans can tell you, is actually a pseudonym for Beastie Adam Yauch, although in this film the character was played by Mr. Show co-star David Cross. After this meandering, rather pointless short that felt long even at its 30-minute run time, it was time for the actual concert film, entitled Awesome! I [Fucking] Shot That! (which, incidentally, is listed in the credits as being directed by Nathaniel Hornblower himself).
As might be expected from the Beastie Boys, this was not a typical concert film. They distributed 50 video cameras to 50 of their fans at their October 2004 Madison Square Gardens concert. The "camera people" were then basically turned loose, the only rule being that no matter what happened, nobody was to stop taping.
The results were mixed, to say the least. It was obvious the intent was to film some raw, intimate footage, but oftentimes the amateurishness of the technique overpowered this ideal. Needless to say, the footage was heavily touched up in the editing process to include all manner of post-production tricks to make it more watchable. Rapid-fire cross-cutting between dozens of cameras, bizarre color filters, and numerous freeze frames were employed in an attempt, it seems, to overcome some of the sloppiness of the footage. While this post-production tampering seems at odds with the general idea of the film, it was plain that the film was intended as something of a thank you from the Beastie Boys to their legion of fanseven though the result often feels like the The Blair Witch Project of concert movies. And, just like any concert movie or concert itself, how much you enjoyed the film ultimately depended on how much you like the Beastie Boys. They played a pretty lengthy set, incorporating a good mix of selections from various points in their career, with everything from "Brass Monkey" to the longer instrumental jams from Check Your Head, concluding with an encore version of "Sabotage."
If seeing Awesome! I [Fucking] Shot That! on screen was ultimately a little less than the sum of its parts, the experience itself was certainly worthwhile. Granted, it is impossible to feel the true excited buzz of being at the concert in person if you're just watching it on a screen, but it's about as close as you can get without actually being there. And your ears won't ring.
Upcoming events presented by National Cinemedia include the 2006 Drum Corps International Classic Countdown, showing April 27, 7 p.m. May 9 features a Widespread Panic concert and later this summer promises a show from The New Cars. Visit www.nationalcinemedia.com or www.bigscreenconcerts.com for more information on upcoming shows or to buy tickets.