Special Feature: The agenda of the rerelease

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Re-edited, re-scored and re-sold. Up to now, we have seen the cinematic rerelease not only as a tool for revealing ‘never-before-seen’ footage, but conversely cutting material originally featured within it’s theatrical release. Continuity errors have been deleted, controversial dialogue replaced, and ultimately the raw-essence of the original feature – the finger-print embedded in the history of cinema – adapted (who remembers Harrison Ford’s noir-style voice-over introduction to Blade Runner [1982]?) But what is the real agenda behind the rerelease?

With previously ‘missing’ footage recently discovered, it would appear we are now in line to see what will hopefully be regarded as the final and ‘definitive’ version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927); a film plagued with ‘rerelease syndrome’ since the 1920’s. This new ‘definitive’ version, rumoured to have a running-time of 210 minutes, is believed to contain material that leads to a new understanding of the film.

When we consider the longevity of Lang’s masterpiece, we can justify the purpose of the rerelease as an exciting prospect for any cinephile. But can we say the same for James Cameron’s recently screened Avatar (2009), due to be extended by a mere 10 minutes later this year, when we consider it’s status as the highest grossing film of all time?

Cameron has defended his intention for a cinematic rerelease of Avatar, calling it an opportunity to make up for missed profit due to the coincidental release of Tim Burton’s 3D ‘retro-fit’ Alice In Wonderland (2010), which reportedly lead to a potential loss of ‘a couple of hundred million dollars’ in box office takings.

Granted, there are still a great deal of cinema-goers yet to experience the film, but let us not forget the recent record-breaking DVD/Blu-ray release of the theatrical version. The argument here is as obvious as its marketing scheme: suspend definitive editions as an opportunity to profit more; an exploitative ploy that fanatics of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-3) will know too well.

Conclusively, it would appear there are two types of rerelease – one that serves the needs/concerns of the majority of its audience, and one that appears to pay almost entire disregard to it. Of course one day we would love the opportunity to see the Titanic sink in 3D, or to re-visit the original Star War’s universe utilizing the new technology, but this prospect should be less about the integrity of the director, less about the financial gain of exhibitors or shareholders, and more concerned with crediting it’s target audience, without whom there would be no rerelease at all.

Ricky Clark

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