Going to the movies is something I always got excited about when I was a little boy. I still do actually… And who doesn’t? Up until today, in this world of wonders and amazement, in this world of technology and inventions, you take a little kid to the movie and the experience will be unforgettable. You take a little kid to a 3D cinema, and you mark them forever, with an effect that lasts more than the rain they could touch, or the superhero they could swear they saw.
When watching a movie at the cinema, 200 or so strangers sit together and watch the same movie and feel a myriad of emotions, each projecting in their inner self what they can see on the giant screen. One would argue that the experience is similar to watching a play or a concert, but is this really true? The difference is huge. Imagine a play or a concert going online, like what happened amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Once the pandemic started to recede, people were back to the theaters to watch live performances. One of the reasons is that the relationship between the performer and the audience is much more complex in theater and concerts since the actors or musicians are literally performing in front of you and you are literally their fourth wall. Can the same be said about movie theaters? Did they regain their momentum after the Covid-19? Was Covid their only enemy? Is the industry declining or aging?
The cinema has gone a long way since its birth, but is it still a young industry? Is it accommodating itself to fit an ever-changing world and easily bored generations?
Do you want some figures? There you go:
In 2020, the average annual cinema spending in the UK was 4.37 pounds a year, plummeting from 18.72 pounds in the previous year. Some people may say that this decrease is naturally caused by the shutdown of cinemas during that year because of the pandemic, and that gone the pandemic, the movie industry would flourish again. Well, they didn’t guess right. In 2021, and after the cinemas reopened, the average annual cinema spending increased to reach 8.16 pounds per year, still 44% less than in 2019. Cinema advertising in the UK also experienced a major decrease from 299.1 million British pounds in 2019 to 55.1 million British pounds, followed by an increase to reach 102.8 million British pounds in 2021. Since less people are going to the cinemas, businesses are obviously going to advertise less there! If those people are not in the movie theater watching movies, where are they? What other means of entertainment have they found? Who hasn’t heard about streaming platforms? If you can’t go out to watch a movie, the movie would come to you, to the comfort of your couch and to the warmth of your bedroom.
Once upon a time, not so far back in history, more precisely in 1997, and in Silicon Valley, Netflix was born. It is the first streaming service and on-demand video company that invaded the technology and entertainment industry and invaded our lives as well.
Netflix was created when DVD piracy started as the company was the first online DVD shop selling movies and series before becoming the first and most famous online streaming platform. Growing gradually year after year reaching more than 200 million users worldwide in 2021. Today, it is still the first streaming platform and the most popular one beating other platforms such as Prime Video and Disney Plus, other streaming platforms that started to proliferate. These platforms are all making it easier to watch your favorite movie in your bed with your friends, partner, or alone. Plus, would you still pay to go to the movies if the movie is already available on a streaming platform that you’re already paying for?
Personally, my answer is positive. Yes, I do. The cinema is a unique experience rather than just a way to watch a movie: the popcorn, the nachos, the ads, the giant screen and the dirty seats, the smell of the place, the feel of a hand touching yours, the intimacy you share with dozens of people that you don’t know, the sound and light effects, the luminous images in the dark, the pounding hearts during horror movies, the glances to people around you perhaps you find there the love of your life, the shared experiences, the feeling that you are not alone. Also, to generations Z and alpha the 7D effects that make you feel like you are the hero for 2 or so hours: the seat vibration, the leg tickling, the face and neck air blasts, the water spray, and above all the fun of it all, the feelings that it makes you experience. Just imagine with me watching the Titanic movie on a streaming service and tell me: who wants to feel the warmth of their bed when they can feel the coldness of the ocean and the heat of love?
Needless to say, the cinema is not suffering alone. TV Series are facing a similar fate with the outburst of series on streaming platforms. One idea pains me the most: my children won’t experience this part of my childhood where I used to run to the bathroom like a fugitive during a TV ad and my sister would shout “Hurry up, the series started” for me to come back and not miss anything. We couldn’t even re-watch the episode if we missed it on TV. The TV channel could replay it after midnight, but that was it. Spoilers weren’t even a thing since everyone was on the same page. We used to know that a series is a hit only when everyone talks about it in school and when streets become empty during the time the series is on.
So now what?
Can we deny that the world has changed, that the needs of people have changed and that streaming platforms have become an inherent part of people’s lives? Certainly not. But should this entail the decline of a beautiful era of our lives: the era of people gathering to go to the movies? Hopefully not. So, let’s all try all together to help London movie theaters or the movie theaters wherever you live to blossom again and regain their momentum. Let’s start by going once every two or so weeks to the movies, like in the old good days and to reconnect with people in front of a screen and not behind one. When you do so, come back to my blog and leave a good word about the movie you watched, or the people you were with, or the experience you lived. Let’s all give it a try!
Recommendations to watch in the cinema now:
Bones And All
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile