by Cassie Ochoa
In celebration of July 4th, many American cinemas played Top Gun. In fact, theaters have done major re-releases of films celebrating their anniversary, such as E.T. the Extra Terrestrial and Blood Simple. Even animated films, given a 3D makeover, have gotten the re-release treatment, such as The Lion King and Finding Nemo. In an era of instant access to films across most decades, why are theatrical releases of old movies suddenly in vogue?
Truth be told, re-releasing films isn’t a new sensation. Back before the boom of digital home media, films were re-released into theaters with a sparing regularity. As of this writing, Gone With the Wind has had a theatrical re-release eight times, and a few films such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show have never left. On the financial side, it makes perfect sense. Any theater who wants to cater to a younger demographic can easily book an older movie and have a guaranteed audience. Booking a film like Jaws during the Fourth of July weekend can help draw audiences with a sense of nostalgia, as well as appropriate holiday timing. However there seems to be a limit to what films get a major re-release; they’re very rarely “classic” films, the epic that film scholars dedicate their lives to like Vertigo. Jaws is a classic, but it joins Home Alone, Pretty in Pink, Labyrinth, The Big Lebowski, and the list goes on with films getting re-releases thirty years later. Films that have achieved a certain level of pop culture recognizability get the individual smaller scale treatment.
Nostalgia is ultimately the driving force between the current trend of theatrical re-release. Back to the Future had its trilogy re-released for the day of the future (October 21st, 2015). The work of John Hughes has gotten re-releases coinciding with individual anniversaries. The original Ghostbusters was released into cinemas just before the opening of the new film, same with the entire Star Wars series. These films are the “new classics,” referenced frequently and cherished from the children who watched it the first go around and now want to see it on the big screen. Whether it was a movie only seen in the clamshell of the VHS or in the dorm room of the film nerd, the rise of easily available films actually helps theatrical re-releases to an extent. Seeing a movie with an audience, all of whom love the film, is a sense of community that can’t be replicated.