Will Netflix Replace The Cinematic Experience?

The Cinema Edition


Cinema, one of the most recent art forms, has been in discussion, in regards of its relevance, for quite a while now. Being a pioneering medium of moving images, its popularity has spread across different cultures and generations, and its impact continues to be felt even today.

A major contribution to cinema’s existence has been made by movie theatres. Starting from the 1890’s, these theatres showed ‘silent’ movies to the general public, followed by the emergence of ‘talkies’, which had its genesis in synchronised sound. The act of going to a theatre to watch a movie has been a regular one, cinema being a mode of both escape and entertainment to the vast multitude. However, with advancement of technology and growing dependence on digital media, this very notion of movie-going has been facing a continuous challenge.

The first such resistance came in the 1970s, in the form of VHS Tapes, but the fact that one actually had to wait for the film’s theatrical run to be over in order to purchase a cassette didn’t allow it to pose as a serious threat. Moreover, the collective experience of being able to view ground-breaking visual imagery, with films like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘E.T.’, during the era of the New Hollywood Wave compelled people to flock to movie theatres, keeping the traditionally dominant pattern of film-viewing stable.

In today’s day and age, however, with the birth of streaming services, there seems to be a rapid decline in the generally accepted film-viewing process. Addressing the 2 giant elephants in the room, Netflix and Amazon have become the preferred choice of many users worldwide, not just for tv, but film too. Netflix distributed its first ‘original’ movie, ‘Beasts of No Nation’, in 2015. This was followed by the distribution of ‘Okja’ (Bong Joon-Ho), ‘Bright’ (David Ayer), and ‘Mudbound’ (Dee Rees). Amazon, on its part, brought forward its first original ,’Chi-Raq’ (Spike Lee), while distributing others like ‘The Neon Demon’ (Nicolas Winding Refn) and the much acclaimed ‘Manchester By The Sea’ (Kenneth Lonergan). With just the click of a button, these 2 streaming giants, are providing the viewers with a vast landscape of entertainment. The viewers simply need to pay a customary fee to gain access to such a variety of movies/tv shows. They have not only made people aware of films of the indie genre, those that are driven fast out of the theatres by the economically demanding system of Hollywood, but also been instrumental in providing them with an option to watch non-English shows and films.

Opposition to such media has been quite strong from a large section of industry members, with the likes of David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson and Christopher Nolan expressing their dissatisfaction with the increasing over-reliance on digital mediums. “If you’re playing the movie on a telephone, you will never in a trillion years experience the film,” Lynch famously quipped. Rejecting the idea of nostalgia being the reason behind shooting on film, Nolan recently remarked, “To me, film is a medium that I love and it isn’t just me, but a whole lot of other filmmakers who love shooting on film. It’s not about the past or anything, it’s just a way of telling a story. We tried to make Dunkirk in a very ambitious way and experimented with a lot of structural techniques. So me being a traditionalist is a technical question, not an artistic one.”

The 2017 Cannes Film Festival witnessed one such spat between American actor, Will Smith, and Spanish film-maker, Pedro Almodovar; the former spoke in favour of the presence of Netflix films in festival competitions and the latter, though not against the idea of films made from digital media, rejected ‘small screen’ films as a part of competition. Speaking of his kids, Smith argued that they go to the movies twice a week and watch Netflix, thereby asserting that Netflix has had no effect whatsoever on what they go to the movie theatre to watch. Almodovar, on his part, stated that he doesn’t perceive the Palme d’Or to be given to films that are then not seen on the big screen, adding that as long as he is alive, he will continue to fight for the ‘capacity of hypnosis of the large screen for the viewer.’

So it finally boils down to one fundamental question – Can streaming giants like Netflix/Amazon replace cinema? The year 2018 did see a drastic change as far reception of Netflix as a cinematic tool is concerned, with one of its originals ‘ROMA’ getting a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars (Amazon had gotten a nomination in 2017 for ‘Manchester By The Sea’). But the monumental successes of summer blockbusters like ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (collected over $2.79 billion wordwide, becoming the highest grossing film in the process) and a spate of other franchise films (Mission Impossible, Disney’s Live Action Remakes, Spiderman : Into The Spiderverse) prove that there still exists a major demographic yearning for the enthralling atmosphere of a traditional movie theatre. Think about it, which one would you prefer – to watch Spidey jump across roof-tops and leap off buildings, in glorious IMAX? Or have him at your lap’s length, where the height of the Empire State Building doesn’t seem daunting enough to send an adrenaline rush? Like I earlier stated – think!

By Amaan Ibrahim

Amaan Ibrahim is a class XII student of R.N. Podar (Humanities) with a keen interest in Psychology and Cinema. A self-proclaimed Neo Freudian, he laps up anything psychoanalytic in nature. In his spare time, he likes playing cricket and has taken to baking of late.

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