Since the dawn of the cinema in Hollywood's Golden Era, many have treated the big screen as the perfect outing. The term "blockbuster" even being derived from the age when cinemagoers would line up for blocks on end just to see an exciting new film. Popcorn, super-sized drinks and sticky floors are all part of the fun of a cinematic experience.
The Golden Era brought with it the new way to socialize. While in their economic boom, America introduced a new form of entertainment that included silent films. However, the film industry evolved with this new invention, as directors started to make "talkies" — films which included sound — in the 1920s and early 1930s. So there it was, a phenomenon that spread globally. The cinema.
But then came the '80s, where many homes could afford to own the new and exciting VCR system. This started the ball rolling on the advance in technology that sparked less interest in adventuring out of the home to see a film. I mean, why enter a darkened room with strangers when you could pop Beverly Hills Cop on your VCR in the comfort of your own home? And if you needed a toilet break, you could pause the film! You certainly couldn't do that at the cinema.
However, technology didn't stop there. Now we have the DVD system, Sky, Blu-Ray, and the internet, which offers Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and even illegal online streaming. It's no wonder that the cinema industry is becoming a little hurt by our secondary consumption. We, as an audience, have adopted a spoiled toddler attitude of "I want to see it where I want and how I want" rather than waiting for release at the cinemas or even for DVD release. Most homes have a subscription to either Netflix or Amazon — but how much does this actually damage the cinema industry?
Facts And Figures
Cinemauk.org.uk explains how the figures of admissions to cinemas annually has declined. In 1940, when cinema was the prime source of entertainment, there were 1.27 billion admissions. The number of annual admissions dropped significantly in 1984, with only 54 million admissions. Of course, this is pretty hard evidence of the rise in technology having an effect on the cinema industry — quite shocking, eh? The last recorded annual admissions is 2015, which has risen slightly to 171.9 million. However this is only a fraction of the success that cinemas used to have during its golden age.
An article on The Guardian explains how not all directors feel threatened by illegal streaming. Hollywood director Lexi Alexander has opposed the actions of Hollywood spending thousands on blocking and taking down pirating sites as she states on her blog:
For every IP block, DRM and who-knows-what security feature Hollywood spends thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on, some piracy kid will undo it for free and within a couple of minutes.
She feels that illegal streaming and online services aren't hurting box offices sales, as she says:
Piracy has NOT been proven to hurt box-office numbers — on the contrary, several studies say it may have boosted the bottom line.
Cinemas Fight Back!
So what is the cinema industry doing to try and win back an audience? The invention of 3D and IMAX has helped a lot in regaining sales in cinemas, as audiences are invested in trying something new and innovative. However, 2016 brings along the immersive experience that cinemas want to introduce. Producers want to introduce 4D immersive technologies such as moving seats, sensory devices and laser projections in order to make primary consumption of the cinema the most popular source of entertainment once again. An article on the BBC states that the new "4D cinema" will be offered by the likes of D-Box and 4DX. An interview with Michel Paquette, the Canadian company's marketing chief, offers an insight into the magic of 4D:
"We can trick the brain to make you believe you're in the movie…it's so well-timed with the soundtrack and the visual that we bring another level of narrative to the storytelling."
One upcoming film which is coded for 4D is DC's Suicide Squad, set to be released in August. The Joker appearing in 4D? Sign me the hell up! D-Box is rumored to be expected in 1,000 theaters by the end of the year and the UK's first 4DX screen opened in Milton Keynes early last year.
So will this be enough? I'm guessing so. Cinema will never become obsolete, the main viewers of online services such as Netflix are also the same cinemagoers who love the trip to the darkened room with total strangers. No one can resist the smell of popcorn, no one can resist the oversized fizzy drinks and no one can resist the absolute magic of seeing a new film on the big screen! No matter how many people prefer to view a film at home, cinema will always have an audience.
Do YOU still like visiting the cinema?