Mainstream Theatre

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Mainstream Theatre


The term Mainstream theatre has certain connotations. To many, it is not alternative, instead it is the way cinema was meant to be viewed, in that the viewer should be able to define the film in their own personal terms. A number of films from around the world can be pigeon-holed as Mainstream theatre, that is, the cinema that rejects the mainstream approach of filmmaking. It is not a particular method of making films because many of these films are very different from each other and use differing approaches.


Mainstream theatre does not look at a particular way of doing things but a particular way of not doing things. The Brechtian aspect of making films centres largely on the theoretical and creative side of film-making, therefore, many of the films said to be alternative, in terms of production, cannot be discussed in terms of the work of Bertolt Brecht. Bertolt Brecht was born in Germany in 1898, and has been cited as the driving force behind what is commonly known as the 'epic theatre'. Brechts' ethos centred around bourgeoise theatre, which through the elaborate sets and acting style helped to allow the audience to consider what they are seeing, rather than a simple attempt to create reality. The bourgoise theatre did this by presenting storylines and characters that the audience could empathise with and not presenting a simple construction of reality.

The advent of the major five studios (Paramount, MGM, RKO, Warner, Fox) and the minor three studios (Universal, United Artists, Columbia), a divide between what can be classed as 'alternative' and what can be classed as 'mainstream' cinema appeared. There was an 'assembly line' technique of production within the fully integrated studios and their sole aim was economical rather than artistic. Mass production was the vogue. Henry Ford made cars for the masses - the studios made films for the masses. The studios tried to open a fictional world and drag the audience inside by hiding the technical side of film-making. They would obide by specific rules of operation, such as the 180º rule (A line is drawn through the action in which the camera cannot cross, thus keeping the right perspective on the action) and the 30º rule (The camera cannot cut to more than thirty degrees around the axis of an object), to name just a few. Temporal continuity kept the story flowing in the right direction, and all these techniques helped the audience to be totally absorbed in the action on screen and to believe in the fictional narrative. In contrast to this, it was Jean-Luc Goddard who remarked that his films are "more essayistic [and use] less narrative than ever before, [and] have become a continuous free-form commentary on art, society, memory and, above all, cinema." (Romney, J)

This way of thinking was largely foreign to Hollywood and the mainstream film-makers, and this quote typifies the ethos of the alternative film-makers. To exemplify the methods of the mainstream filmmakers versus the alternative filmmakers ...
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