Convenience vs Experience: Movie Theatres

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A Friday evening, sitting in front of a giant screen with a medium sized popcorn or a cup of cold coffee in hand surrounded by an excited audience is a great feeling. Most of my weekends are like this.

One question my friends and colleagues constantly ask me is why do I see all these films on the first show of its opening day. The answer is simple; more than watching a film, I want to experience it in the way it is meant to be experienced.

The routine of sitting in front of a big screen and watching a movie has remained the same over 100 years, however, the details have changed. Single screen to a multiplex, popcorn to pizza, and of course the luxury cinema experience.

Rise in ticket prices, the introduction of streaming services and for those happy to dabble in morally grey areas, torrents may also blocking people from reaching theatres. ‘Netflix’ chief content officer himself notes that watching a movie online is like seeing a sports game on TV rather than being at the stadium. His observation is absolutely right. The flourish of online streaming services compels movie theatres to focus more on enhancing the overall movie experience. Thus, the reel world increasingly creates an aura that cannot be digitally replaced and replicated (Thanks to visual & sound technologies – 3D, 4DX, IMAX, Dolby atmos etc.). 

The question now arising is whether streaming services like Netflix will kill cinema? It is a criticism raised based on history which revealed a decline in moviegoers when everyone bought a television and no one wanted to go out. When videos and video games came out, it was yet another death knell for theatres.

History was expected to repeat itself but it doesn’t.  According to the study conducted by EY’s Quantitative Economics and Statistics group, people who stream films and videos online were more likely to watch movies in theatres.  They are rushing to theatres now more than ever as they want to experience more. Even though the originals from Netflix and Amazon (Disney is aiming to launch their streaming service in November this year) is highly popular and has viewers all over the world, it doesn’t seem to stop people from seeking a movie theatre experience.

Ok, so we’ve established that both online & offline providers of entertainment are complementary rather than contrasting and streaming services aren’t going to replace theatres, but is there something else that could do the same? Here’s an ad by Aries:

What if we recreate a theatre environment at the comfort of our homes? Could that come in the way of people going out to the movies? We don’t think so. Here’s why.

The big screen – Isn’t it absolutely captivating to sit in a dark theatre staring at a massive white screen, even though everyone has a 40+ inch 4K TV? Yes,  the fact is that a theatre screen has the unique ability to sweep us away. There is nothing wrong in watching star wars on our phone, laptop, tablet or tv but to watch something cinematic, thrilling, blown up big for the eyes to feast on, in these electronic gadgets is a waste of time. However, watching the same on a “big screen” theatre will offer us some valuable and special hours.

Focus – It might be necessary to take breaks from time to time, to escape the oppressive emotions on the screen. In theatre, we don’t have that option — it keeps on going with or without us which makes everything more intense and inexorable. We can’t get the same excitement and eagerness from an experience that we fully own or control. In theatre, it’s out of our hands, and that loss of control is part of the emotional experience (Keeping in mind the number of movies that were ruined by people making noise or doing something at an inappropriate moment, especially horror flicks).

Mental Repose – In the present era, people are running short of time, rushing their lives amidst hurly-burly schedules. Isolating themselves from the real world and taking solace in the reel world can help feel them better at least for some time.

Above all, It is a communal experience.

A large group of people can be a curse to some situations, but in the case of movie theatres, it is definitely a blessing. The result will be a net positive. A group of people laughing together triggers a feeling that we should laugh, too; while watching a suspenseful or thrilling scene, we can feel a large crowd hold their breath together. Even if we’re with the same friends or family who are always on our couch, on going to the theatre, we’re refreshing a familiar social setting.

Movie theatres are going to stay here to entertain all of us, irrespective of whatever competition they face. Innovations and changes are inescapable and we cant really ignore the convenience these streaming services and in-home viewing provides. But at the end of the day, the experience theatres provide will remain unbeatable and be strengthened day by day, taking its wings and flying high.