Home Features ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ and the magic of concert cinema
‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ and the magic of concert cinema

‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ and the magic of concert cinema


Recently I was very fortunate and extremely lucky to be invited to 2021’s Auckland Arts Festival’s fantastic showing of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in Concert, and what made this showing of this classic film even more exciting was that it was set to a beautiful live-orchestral accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra.

A crowd of excited and eager cinemagoers packed into the Kiri te Kanawa Theatre at Aotea Centre to enjoy this one and they were rewarded with an incredible experience. While I see multiple films a year, I’ve never been able to experience the beauty of a film through an ‘in concert’ experience, and I’ve gotta say I would highly recommend the experience.

Steven Spielberg’s classic 1982 film came alive even more with the presence of an orchestral score played live in front of it, and while watching the film this way you become even more enwrapped in its story and the emotional journey of the characters of Elliot (Henry Thomas) and E.T. even further. There’s something to be said for the power of live music and added together with the beauty of Speilberg’s imagery and storytelling, I found myself transported even further into this story.

It was simply marvellous to see the performances of Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton and a very young Drew Barrymore in this film again and all those classic feelings and emotions of watching this film all came back to me. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is a story of family, friendship, connection and above all love, and presented in this format it was that much more special and beautiful to experience and it’s themes and meanings were felt by all in the immediate present, and especially by me.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial remains as one of my top five films of all-time, and to see it presented like this, as a concert film, was something extraordinary. What’s more, it was a communal event, with a packed out theatre audience, and an orchestra who were highly engaged in bringing the magic of John Williams classic film score to life. The presence of a live orchestra accompanying the film made the experience of watching E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial that much more exciting and it was almost like I was watching this film for the first time again.

The presence of an intermission, a tradition that many moviegoers are now foreign to, also leant considerable impact to the film as you were able to take a pause to think on the experience of the film, it’s storytelling and just how the presence of the orchestra made this experience that much more impactful. I also found with such a large audience, many of it made up of young families, that there was a grand joy and energy in this showing and for many in the audience this was the first time that they’d ever had the chance to view E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. And they loved it all the more for it, with my own guest, who herself had never ever seen it commenting, “this one truly touched my heart. I just love it.”

I’ve often said that my favourite part of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is the resurrection of E.T. and the exciting bike chase through the San Fernando Valley that followed and the presence of a live orchestra really amped this up. The performance of William’s score by the Auckland Philharmonic in this key scene brought out a pace and energy to it, and your eyes opened further to the excitement and wonder of seeing Elliot, E.T. and his friends soar above the forest as they made their way to return E.T. home again. This scene has gone down in history as one of the most exciting pieces of cinema ever filmed, and the presence of a live orchestra made it even more so when watching it this way.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in Concert was simply a beautiful experience to be a part of. While COVID-19 has made the presence of live events hard to come by, and at certain points throughout both this year and last year it felt like the magic of the movies might have all but disappeared, this presentation of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial proved that not only are audiences ready to return to the theatre but that the power of cinema has not lost its grasp and that beautiful stories will always be celebrated.

The Auckland Arts Festival is now live and will run from March 10 – April 11. Details of events and showtimes can be viewed here.

Image: Auckland Arts Festival