“Whovians” habitually sit on the sofa—or hide behind it—to watch their favourite time-traveller battle Daleks, Cybermen, Zygons and other monsters. But on November 23rd thousands of them, all around the world, settled into cinema seats to see “Doctor Who” in 3D. The 50th-anniversary episode of the British television show was screened on 800 big screens in 20 countries at the same time as being broadcast on the BBC’s channels.
The Doctor’s appearance exemplifies the rise of “event cinema”, in which film theatres show more than just films. Cinema-goers can be thrilled by live sporting events or lulled by arias from the world’s great opera houses. They have still been able to see “Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum”, although the exhibition at the British Museum closed in September. Event cinema accounts for only around 1% of global box-office takings, but it is growing quickly. David Hancock of IHS, a research firm, thinks it will bring in $380m this year and maybe $1 billion by 2018.