Are online streaming services going to destroy the ‘magic of cinema’?

With cinema chains now offering services online, what does this mean for the future of cinema goers?

I recently sat down and watched Jake Schreier’s first feature film Robot and Frank using Curzon’s fabulous on-demand streaming service. Cheap, easy and most of all convenient I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie however, call me a purist but there just felt like there was something missing.

Allow me to explain, I recently caught a screening of the recent re-imagining of Sam Raimi’s 1980’s horror classic The Evil Dead. I saw this movie in a jam packed cinema, where despite the odd moan the overwhelming response was positive. One thing that I enjoyed most about the movie was the reaction of the audience. The shared experience of people wincing and covering their eyes in fear and often disgust only adds to the spectacle.

Whilst many people feel that online streaming is the way forward and that movies are cheaper and easier to view in this format I am still one for the magic of cinema. Perhaps a movie like Robot and Frank is fine to watch on your own but some movies need to be put on the big screen. Watching Borat on the big screen for the first time back in 2006 and hearing a sold out room in fits of laughter certainly heightened the movie’s experience for me and made it a very unforgettable movie. Watching this movie again on my own in a silent bedroom with just the noise of my next door neighbours for company wasn’t quite the same.

Many people often talk about the magic of cinema, but what is that exactly? For me it is the aforementioned shared experiences of being scared out of your wits in a room full of people or laughing hysterically, with the experience being heightened by those around you. It is these moments that make cinema special.

The problem with cinema nowadays for many people is that a night out to the cinema costs approximately just short of a trip around the world. Ticket prices have been rocketing into orbit over recent years and it is because of this that many people have begun shying away. Granted, offers such as EE Wednesdays (2 for 1) will get people through the doors but try attending a Saturday screening of a film and see if you have any trouble getting tickets, chances are you won’t.

It may sound like some damning prophecy to suggest that the cinematic experience is dying but with cinema numbers dropping and a range of other services becoming available – is it really?

Its undeniable that big summer blockbusters are always going to create cash, but at other times of the year, say between February and March, there are fewer and fewer people making the effort to attend their local cinemas. So is there anything that can be done to combat this?

Many believe that an online streaming release alongside a theatrical run wouldn’t be a problem. The film companies would certainly still make their cash but what about the aforementioned cinematic experience?

It could be said that purists would keep that alive, those who really enjoy the cinema would without doubt continue to create an atmosphere and perhaps even be more respectful of those watching the film with them but just how many people would be willing to turn out? A jammed packed screening can also have negative effects. People on their phones, making noise or kissing in the back rows are nothing more than a nuisance and the more people in the screening; the more likely this is to happen.

Scott Weinberg, chief film critic and editor at Fearnet told me about his belief in the aforementioned cinema experience, telling me that “I firmly believe that part of the ‘magic’ of movies lies in the communal viewing experience — but with ticket prices, long lines, endless pre-show ads, and the always-looming threat of rude patrons who chat away or text on their phone… I can see why someone wouldn’t mind watching Iron Man 3 in the peace of their own living room.”

So with all this in mind, how long is it going to be before people start turning their back on cinemas for a more convenient and much cheaper way of watching movies?

Click to comment
To Top