Are the days of watching movies on the ‘small screen’ over?

Movie on Laptop

This week it was announced that streaming services in the United States may end up bringing in more money than the Box Office by 2017. That’s not because Box Office revenues are falling (indeed, they’ve been rising by significant amounts for quite a few years now), but because streaming services are simply growing at a faster rate. Which makes me wonder, is the tradition of the past decade of watching movies on ones laptop/TV on its way out?

I only ask because I haven’t sat down to watch a movie on my television or laptop in months. I have, however, sat down to watch multiple episodes of multiple TV series, and – alternatively – have gone to the movies on average about once a week to sit down and watch the latest release at the local multiplex.

It didn’t always used to be this way of course. There was a time when every movie was directed by Brett Ratner and to view it you had to be willing to squeeze into a tiny seat and have your view partially eclipsed by somebody’s head. Now, the prospect of Brett Ratner directing a movie is a bad twitter joke, and many cinemas not only allow you to watch your movie unencumbered by somebody’s cucumber-shaped head but to even have food delivered to your seat.

When movie theatres were on their way out it was because the home theatre, and the DVD, was on its way in. Now the DVD is on its way out, and people are finding it increasingly pointless to invest in large home theatre systems when the local cinema has excellent food and coffee.

It started with the odd societal trend of the past decade where we’ve simultaneous had less and more free time. Let me explain, our jobs started requiring increasing levels of 24-7 connectivity, but simultaneously the technology we regularly had access to allowed us to take greater advantage of pockets of free time that used to go unfilled. Where previously we used to stare out into space during our daily commute, now we started using that time to catch up on television, podcasts, or reading (provided that one wasn’t driving of course). So we started watching a lot more television, and also started realising that television was actually pretty darn good.

At it’s best, television can offer greater scope for character development simply due to the large story arcs that such storytelling involves, and these are – on the whole – far more satisfying than the story arcs allowed for in the conventional ‘2-hour’ movie format. It’s somewhat revealing that the movies we’ve been consuming of late also have these long story arcs. The Marvel ‘Avengers’ series, for example, has gone to great pains to construct a vast interlocking universe and  ‘The Hobbit’ naturally has one anyway.

Steven Spielberg was once quoted as being openly hostile to people viewing his movies on the ‘small screen’. He thought that the small screen could never match the big screen experience. Increasingly, I think, audiences are starting to agree with him (especially after the ‘big screens’ started upping their game). What audiences are also seeing though, I suspect, is that the episodic format of television is also a much better way of telling a story.


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