Clicking the X-TAB on the Cinema industry and innovation
DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert in the film industry but have read about its innovation and the implications of online streaming to the average consumer. This article is my own curious questions regarding film and cinema consumption. This is a brief glipses into what I imagine could be a substantially longer article, that is much more focused. If your curiousity is peaked or you have answers to some of my questions, feel free send me a message!
Sometimes random thoughts will just pop into your head and you will begin to reflect on how much they have impacted the way that we live and perceive things. I find it interesting how sometimes humans will perceive things only years after the changes have been put in place. We never quite know when to document the moment in which things began to shift, but now there is clearly enough evidence to conclude that a change has taken place. It was so gradual and so non-threatening to our daily lives that there was never a protest, or any sort of reaction. In fact, individuals embraced these new ideas.
In the technological world of the twenty-first century, entertainment is the most general and easily identifiable industry to have shifted without much protest. To give some clear markers, according to International Movie Database, the most popular film of the year 2000 was Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ that grossed 187.71 M at the box office. The film is known for its war, blood and gore. If we look objectively at the film, there may be other reasons people were entertained by a historical war film that put Russel Crowe’s abs on full display. The reason may have something to do with the added shock value of a new sound technology called Dolby 2.0. This new superior use of sound by large studios and theatres allowed movie goers to experience another level of entertainment and interaction with films.
Since the expansion of computation and visual technologies, there have been number of incredible evolutions to sound and cinema, including the creation of 3-D and 4-D technology as well as UltraAVX and IMAX cinemas. In essence, film innovation has enhanced the cinephiles experience inside of a movie theatre. However, for the average viewer an appreciation for innovation in film technology does not always go noticed.
My question is a simple one, yet after reflecting for some time I am unsure of the answer. What role does film innovation have in the future of online streaming?
There have been thousands of people who have worked to create as close of an experience to the reality that is projected on the screen in front of you. There have been millions spent to try and find a way to create an escape so profound, that the movie goers are transported into another world, without leaving their seats.
In contrast to the innovation of cinemas, is the creation of streaming services that disregard the essence of escapism, for the comfort of watching movies in one’s own home. The purpose of this article is not simply to criticize these streaming platforms, but to look at how we as a society have shifted our consumption of entertainment from one of human interaction, to isolation and distraction.
It’s a given.. Its cheaper to stream!
In short, the way we view entertainment has less to do with our desire to engross ourselves in the worlds and lives of the characters on the ‘big screen’, but to observe them in passing without meaningful interest in the work or innovative techniques used in making the film. Since, while a director may produce a film with the intent of a ‘big screen reception’ by audiences, it is becoming more commonplace for audiences to watch these films through streaming services and on their own smaller screens at home. Hence, the big screen films, made for escapism and thrilling reactions are often less impactful to the ‘streamers’ than to those who agree to pay substantially more for a single ticket.
There are clearly some positive aspects to online streaming, including the ability for smaller independent films and artists to showcase their projects to the public for a relatively low cost. Streaming per month costs less than the price of a single UltraAVX movie ticket for one film. For the average consumer it is a no brainer to spend money on 1 or 2 streaming services, rather than the cost of transportation, ticket and concessions for one film.
This is especially true to many low-income families who can now learn, view and interact with film for a reasonable price. It is evident that streaming is made for the masses, but not for the artists and cinephiles behind the lens of a camera.
By the People and for (some) of the people
It should also be mentioned that cinemas are not always accessible to the individual, for medical reasons. The general population will appreciate the booming surround sound and bright images projected across the screen at a rate of over 60,000 frames per second, however a part of the population cannot tolerate such a sensory overload. Therefore, streaming becomes an important alternative that can help manage their selection and control the speed of each film.
Studios: why spend on things they will not notice or care for?
Since streaming is cheaper and therefore more accessible to other segments of society, including those suffering from medical issues; what is the point of cinema innovation in the world of online streaming?
This is an important question that many studios have been asking since the beginning of the 2010’s. Is the investment in innovative technologies and large-scale productions still worth the risk, if less viewers will be going to the cinemas to see it? Why create such an elaborate escape for the streaming consumer who may pause it to check e-mail? Or fall asleep? Or even stranger, to have sex. (yes, I am talking about the classic Netflix and chill) What is the point in this multi-billion dollar investment if the audience cannot keep focused long enough to appreciate the effort that went into its production?
How Corona Has Changed Cinemas
If we examine the past months of this global pandemic where public interaction is strictly policed, it is easy to conclude that cinemas are suffering. However, as consumers cannot go to the theatre, the streaming services have boomed in their viewership numbers as well as their content production. Now, cinema owners and studios are holding their breath wishing and longing for theatres to open and consumers to return to the seats of cinema. There is valid concern that consumers will refrain from returning until there is a cure to this pandemic and strong assurances that sitting in a seat next to a complete stranger will not cause them to become infected. Even with proper precautions, consumers have become accustomed to the fear of normal public interaction, since for the past months, many have been sequestered in their homes, watching tv and online shopping.
These past few months in quarantine has demonstrated that the experience of a cinema is no longer essential to the average movie goer, instead it is convenience that is the highest concern.
Convenience is King
The viewer no longer cares for commercials, sounds quality or multidimensional films. They don’t care how large the screen in the cinema is, their 15” laptop screen is plenty big enough to enjoy any kind of film. The cinema that was created and designed in the late 19th and early twentieth century- whose innovation in sound engineering and image resolution had exploded in the late 20th and early 21st century has seen a substantial setback that may lead to its own demise.
In conclusion, entertainment is becoming more about convenience and less about excitement. The circumstances surrounding this pandemic have only exacerbated the decline of the cinema industry, since the cinemas were closed for a number of months. With the introduction of streaming, a few simple clicks will bring you wherever you wish to go. However, with the introduction and expansion of streaming, we are clicking the x-tab on cinemas and the centuries of history, innovation and technology that it brought us.