Spike Lee On Digital Viewing Of Movies: ‘It’s Heartbreaking’

Spike Lee
Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Spike Lee would rather watch a movie in a big theater than on a mobile-phone screen.

“I know I’m a dinosaur,” Lee said while holding forth at Variety’s Entertainment and Technology conference in New York, but “there’s something still for me actually being in a movie theater” and seeing a film with a group of people.

The director said he was taken aback by the notion that some people might watch “West Side Story,” “Star Wars” or “Apocalypse Now” on a smartphone screen.

“I know it’s not a popular view, but as a filmmaker — we kill ourselves with editing. With lighting. With sound,” he said, adding: “It’s heartbreaking.”

Lee appeared with Marc Ecko, the media and fashion entrepreneur. Lee recently agreed to join Ecko’s Complex media and marketing business, becoming a board adviser for video products and branded content. Lee is no stranger to the world of advertising, having long overseen ad work at Spike DDB, part of the large DDB Worldwide unit of ad holding company Omnicom Group.

The director said he felt at home tackling commercial work and filmmaking. “It’s just storytelling,” he said. “That’s the way I approach it.”

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  1. When filmmakers shot on film, then movies were worth seeing in theaters. The chemical mix on the celluloid frames looked magical when projected. Now that they shoot on digital, the image doesn’t look as good on the big screen anymore. A digi-movie is compatible with any digital screen–for me, it’s the Sony Bravia flatscreen in my living room.

  2. Jared says:

    This saddens me to no end

    Spike Lee used to make interesting and thought provoking work – now he’s only in the news when he says something stupid

    You know what’s heartbreaking spike? When you not only expect to fund your schlock on kickstarter but then complain about it too. Oldboy was terrible too – how bout you make a movie worth seeing in the theaters then you can hand out all the guilt you want

  3. PS says:

    Geez. Why can’t these millionaire’s just stfu and let consumers decide when, where and how they watch their movies. Not everyboy has the extra cash lying around to watch every movie they want to see at the cinema. Not everyone has the time to watch every movie they see in perfect conditions. Some people simply do not have the money to go to the cinema. Some people have to travel back and forth to/from work or school and use that time to watch their favourite movies on whatever mobile device they have. So really, respectfully, stfu. And the real reason they are heartbroken is, because watching movies in a whatever way on mobile devices is, because it puts less money in the filmmakers pockets.

  4. Ann Seeber says:

    I watch most movies on my 24″ HD computer monitor with CC. I do enjoy going to the movie theater for first run movies but many times I can’t hear the dialogue very well. As a slightly hearing impaired senior citizen, my movie enjoyment is enhanced by digital viewing and my big monitor gives me a theater-like experience.

  5. Iván el Terrible says:

    There are movies which are meant to be seen on big screen. Other movies are better to watch them on a TV. It’s been always like this and it will never change. Cinema evolves along with technologies, simple like that.

    • Nick Bruno says:

      It’s always been like this?! VCRs weren’t released on the market until the mid-70s. Most households couldn’t afford one until the mid-80s.

  6. Agreed with Lee here. Movies are still being lensed for the proscenium, not the device screen. Would ‘Star Wars’ have had the same impact on a tablet as it did at the multiplex? Of course not. Really hoping that the theaters don’t disappear in favor of a digital presentation medium that truly cannot capture all of the finite elements of a full feature film.

  7. Damian says:

    Nothing, absolutely nothing beats the big screen!
    That said, yes, sometimes there is a discomfort sitting in a big theater with some noisy people.
    When I lived in Malibu, I remember in the little theatre there, during the film, producers would answer their phones…Luckily, I now live in Paris where the theaters are great. People go to the theatre to escape work not to continue it. Also, the French rather eat in a restaurant or at home then to balance three courses and a large drink on their laps.

  8. Daniels says:

    From time to time I go to the theaters, but sometimes people can be so obnoxious and annoying.
    I remember watching Interstellar and someone decided they can afford to buy tickets to see this movie but couldn’t afford to pay for a babysitter. So throughout the film every ten minutes or so you’ll hear a toddler groaning, moaning, or whining. Then there was a person who felt the need to express their reactions verbally every time something happened.
    People keep complaining about prices like food. Why do you need to eat at a movie theater?

  9. Guest says:

    Agg, I’m so tired of this drama queens.

  10. Kevin says:

    At 54, I’ve been going to the movies nearly every week or so for most of my adult life. It’s practically be-
    come a religious experience for me every time I go to a cineplex. Most people enter an immaculate-looking
    church with the unique fragrance of premium heirloom parchment permeating the air and the angelic chords
    of a mesa soprano lulling an ethereal chorus of “Ave Maria” in their minds in order to achieve a heightened
    feeling of spiritual euphoria. Hey, all I have to do is walk into any movie theater with the irresistibly mouth-watering aroma of a freshly made batch of popcorn instantly seducing me and I hear a fully orchestrated rendition of “Hooray for Hollywood” enthusiastically jamming in my head. That’s when the sermon begins.
    Preach it, Brother Lee! Amen!

  11. Sandy Muller says:

    I’ll tell you what heartbreaking is that Spike Lee told the world that white people flooded New Orleans on purpose just to kill black people. This racist no talent has coast on no fuel for far too long.

  12. nerdrage says:

    I have a big enough screen in my living room, thank you. Sure, superhero blockbuster movies are even better on a screen 50 feet high, but they are hardly art. A story based around character, plot and theme should come across reasonably well even on a cell phone, although my eyes aren’t good enough anymore to tolerate that…

  13. Sherry says:

    I prefer to see a film on the big screen, most definitely. There’s nothing like being enveloped by the sounds and seeing this massive image before you, the room all dark, to pull you into the story and really see the characters and feel their emotions.

    However… movies in theaters are getting more and more expensive to attend. And I hate the crowds – I’d rather go once the movie’s been out for a month, so I have a little breathing room to sit and not feel squeezed in. While I enjoy hearing people’s reactions (their cheers, their emotional responses), sometimes it’s nicer to see the film with a smaller crowd so that I can get sucked into the film instead of being distracted by other people. It always seems that the more packed the audience, the more distracting and difficult it is to enjoy the movie (too many people talking, shouting stuff, or being obnoxious).

    • Mitch says:

      Absolutely agree with Spike, but to pay money for tickets, popcorn, etc., I expect to be entertained, not watch someone’s idea of advancing an agenda.

  14. Ann says:

    Absolutely agree with Spike Lee. Movie Theaters all the way. It’s an “experience” unlike any other.

  15. TJ Kesolits says:

    Mr. Lee is 1000% correct. In order to fully get involved with a movie you really need a big screen and decent sound. A second option would be a decent large screen monitor with surround sound. I can’t comprehend how anyone can enjoy or appreciate a work of art on a 4 or 10 inch screen.

  16. Mark Wilbur says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Small screen, TV, mobile is great for a second viewing, but not the first viewing. “Do the Right Thing” and go to a theater!

    • Macd says:

      Frankly, it’s been years since I’ve seen any movie decent enough to warrant “a second viewing” in any format!

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