This time 10 years ago, when you went to see a film at Regal Cinemas, you got a lot more than just the movie. Not just the trailers. Not just the commercials and brief behind the scenes videos in the “First Look” package before the trailers. You were also shown a four and a half-minute special look at a major upcoming release.
Ahead of Universal’s Christmas Day 2012 open of “Les Miserables”, the studio partnered with Regal to present a video that introduced moviegoing audiences to a revolutionary concept: actors singing live in a movie musical.
Director Tom Hooper and stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne explained the advantages and challenges of singing during a scene, instead of lip-syncing to your pre-recorded, recording booth, in-studio performances from months earlier.
For more than three months, Regal showed this special look at “Les Mis” before every showing of every movie. I must’ve seen it at least 30 times. I had it memorized. I knew the words to the first part of Jean Valjean’s soliloquy, which Jackman recites in two different ways.
I made it my goal to sing this section with Jackman at the Critics Choice Awards in January 2013. And it happened. He was humbled and thrilled with how much I liked his performance in the film and my singing abilities next to him. He joined me for the final part of our duet, even though he admitted he had the flu.
This “Les Mis” special extended look introduced something revolutionary: singing live in a movie. The result was an incredible achievement from Hooper (who deserved to be Oscar nominated), the entire cast (including Hathaway’s Academy Award winning performance) and the crew. “Les Miserables” is not a perfect film, but it’s a heck of an accomplishment and a true juggernaut in the world of movie musicals.
At the same time, this four and a half minute video changed the way theaters viewed pre-show entertainment. Because this special look was (and still is) so compelling… the footage, the information, the music, the way it’s edited, the anticipation for the movie… studios and theater chains have felt (over the past 10 years) they can put whatever they want — for however long they want — in front of a movie and try to capture an audience’s attention before the lights officially go down.
So if, like me, you’re getting fed-up with long pre-shows, too many commercials and twenty-plus minutes of trailers (that now feature some commercials in between them), you have “Les Miserables” to thank… or blame.