On its release, much critical attention was given to Polanski’s Macbeth, which is still taught in schools and universities as a comparison text with Welles’s movie and regarded by many as among the best Shakespeare films ever made. Yet it did badly at the cinema box office, its commercial failure prompting some to feel this could be a factor in the virtual disappearance of Shakespeare cinema adaptations over the next two decades, until Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V revived the genre in 1989. However, other factors contributed to this decline. The explosive cultural energies released in Western Europe and the USA by the 1960s had created numerous lines of fresh cultural enterprise, especially in Britain. In the area of British Shakespeare performance, once the challenge of exploring how plays could be creatively translated into the film medium had been met by innovative directors like Peter Hall and Peter Brook, they moved on to other drama projects: for them Shakespeare on film had been one cultural project to pursue among others. Then there was the competition from television, which for a time seduced filmgoers away from the cinema. As domestic television audiences across the increasingly prosperous ‘First World’ enlarged dramatically, so did interest in making Shakespeare available to big audiences via the small screen.
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