The cinema is dying. It was once a place where families gathered to share films and even TV shows while people smoked and enjoyed the escapism that a home without TV could not offer. Nowadays many people own a huge TV with surround sound and have access to the latest films easily. This is one reason that cinema sales have been in decline since records began in 1991, the other is streaming.
Streaming via Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Now TV and others offers such a convenient way to watch movies that the cinema now seems like an effort.
In 2014 figures for UK and Ireland cinema earnings showed a 2.9 per cent decline to £1.13 billion, nothing to sniff at but still the most significant fall since 1991. 2014 was also the first year no film broke the £40m mark since 1998.
Perhaps streaming services becoming ever more prevalent is part of that. In the UK more than three million households subscribed to Netflix in 2014, twice as many as a year ago. More than one in ten households have signed up to streaming services in the last 12-months.
The Orange Wednesdays promotion, which let cinema goers get two tickets for the price of one, has been cancelled after 10 years of running. This follows EE TV being released and the company, which is part of Orange, wanting its customers to watch at home rather than at the cinema.
Why else is streaming killing the cinema?
The cinema isn't cheap. Tickets are typically over £10, a price that could buy you a film on Blu-ray or online to keep. That's also more expensive than a whole month of access to the entire library of Netflix films and TV shows.
While the price sounds steep for a film it doesn't even cover the costs of making it for most, these are made from the sales of sweets, drinks and popcorn. When sweets from the supermarket and a streaming subscription are so much cheaper why would people want to pay to struggle to hear a film over people crunching popcorn?
With larger and larger TVs in the home and ever advancing sound systems the cinema has a real fight to dazzle customers. Now that we can have 4K OLED TVs streaming high quality visuals as well as complete surround sound from Dolby Atmos – which many cinemas don't have – why would we want to leave the lounge?
Films do come out sooner at the cinema but for those that don't mind downloading illegally even these can often be attained at full quality shortly after release. And for everyone streaming it often just means waiting a while and getting it far cheaper in the comfort of home.
The future of streaming is exciting as formats are only limited by the bandwidth of the internet connection and the TV. Netflix has announced it will be adding high dynamic range streaming on top of its 4K and high frame rate offerings. When you offset the one-off cost of a TV every few years to keep up against the cinema it seems like an attractive prospect, especially as most people use it daily.
This is where cinemas can still excel with screens like the IMAX and Dolby's new cinemas still able to dazzle the audience with laser aligned booming sound and 8K laser projectors creating a truly immersive experience. But at £15 a pop you'd expect that.
Streaming services are becoming more ingrained into our devices. Most smart TVs, consoles, tablets, phones and computers can access Netflix, Now TV or Amazon Instant Video from within a dedicated app. This remembers the user's choices to let them carry on viewing from where they left off or find new shows and films they're likely to enjoy. It's just so easy.
Going to the cinema often means queues, sitting through adverts even though you're paying to be there and then having to put up with noisy people ruining the atmosphere.
Freedom and talent
The way that streaming providers are going about creating their own shows is brilliant as it provides funding and lets the artists create freely. The end result is high quality, original programming. Often traditional networks limit this freedom by specifying actors or writers.
Another freedom for streaming shows is time. Often shows online vary in length since they don't need to fit a certain TV time slot. It also means an entire series will be released at once so the modern trend of binge watching can be achieved.
There are only so many films that can be shown in the cinema. Online there are no limits to the libraries that can be built by streaming companies. In fact backdated TV shows and films are often up for grabs to the highest bidder, killing off the need to buy and keep media.
The limited time frame on cinema releases is also an issue. A big blockbuster might have a long run that's easy to catch but a lower budget indie film may only be on at a few select cinemas and even then only for a short time. Of course, if you want to see a film first, you'll need to visit the movie theatre but considering the turn around windows for home releases are getting shorter and shorter these days, with streaming services also signing exclusives for an even quicker cinema to home screen transition, many are happy to wait a few more weeks.
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