Despite some well publicised summer flops including “The Lone Ranger”, “After Earth” and “The Wolverine”, this summer has been a record at the Box Offices. The US Box Office only hit a record $4.7bn (£3bn) over this summer with a 10.2% increase in revenue from last year. While some of this increase has been attributed to slightly higher ticket prices, it can be traced to an unusually large number of summer releases. Blockbuster hits such as “Iron Man 3”, “Man Of Steel” and “Despicable Me 2” helped boost numbers, but there was also success for lower budget horror films “The Purge” and “The Conjuring”, as well as comedies “This Is The End” and “We’re The Millers”. With this in mind you might be wondering why on earth anyone would even question cinema attendance but consider your monthly cinema viewings and I’m sure you’d admit that you don’t go to the flicks as much as you used to.
Arguably times have changed and prices have risen. The times when you went to the cinema three or four times a week have gone, but despite some incredible action spectacles and must see blockbuster hits, I’ve been unwilling to go and actually see the films on the big screen. Often that must see picture can simply wait. Instead I would argue that given advances in technology, new platforms of film consumption and the ever looming threat of piracy, we as cinema go-ers now have that much choice that we needn’t go to the cinema that often.
Think about the ways in which films are consumed in 2013. We have the cinema with its regular screen and its impressive IMAX behemoths. We can then buy films a few months later from stores such as HMV. Then the traditional rental stores like Blockbuster, now seemingly outcompete by LoveFilm who will deliver DVD’s and Blu-rays to your door for a minimal price per month. In addition, Netflix and LoveFilm Instant will stream films direct to your laptop or even internet enabled TV. We now no longer need to go the cinema to see a blockbuster.
Now think of your nightly entertainment, it might be filled with a film enjoyed on the couch, maybe a rash of video games, but what about TV? The currently crop of TV series might as well be Hollywood affairs. Massive budgets, glossy visuals and intense stories have captivated a much wider audience than in the past. With high-profile successes like “The Wire”, “Game of Thrones”, the exceptional “Breaking Bad”, “Dexter” and “The Walking Dead”, we no longer need to go to the cinema to see a riveting drama or zombie tale. In fact, we get much more watching these on our TV screens than the cinema could give us. Could the cinema format be growing stale and tired? I mean, who wants to see another comic book hero grace the screen, another animation sequel, a classic film revived for today? The answer is obviously millions of film fans, but has TV become the place to innovate and challenge audience with deep stories, layered arcs and plots which are complex and enjoyable?
In a recent lecture given at the Edinburgh Film Festival, Kevin Spacey, star and director of the Emmy award-winning and online only “House of Cards” said that audiences are demanding “complex, smart stories” as they become accustomed to “bingeing” on box sets. He went on to proclaim that “the audience wants control. They want freedom…give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.” Could TV really be outpacing the might of Hollywood?
Thankfully Hollywood is far from dead in the water, yet it will need to do something soon to innovate and attract us to the theatres of the world. There is still nothing like seeing that teaser trailer and counting the days till you can watch something epic on the big screen. But perhaps where we would have been happy to see a visually amazing spectacle on the silver screen, we now push the boat out and prefer to see it in IMAX? Our film diet is clearly changing. We can get sustenance from other outlets. Films are now released concurrently in the multiplexes and online. How long is it before we can take our cinema ticket stub home, scan it and get the film instantly to be enjoyed at home?
So in spite of the resurgence of TV, worries about the loom of piracy and the recession hitting Tinseltown, the movies continue to get us flocking to the picturehouse. However, Hollywood might find itself unwise to rest on its star laden laurels for too long. Kevin Spacey acknowledged that TV’s new mediums of distribution were clear proof that the industry could learn “the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn”. If what Spacey says is true, then it would appear that TV has dodged a bullet and has remained not only popular but increasingly so. Will the multimillion dollar Hollywood budgets be enough to keep us as regular cinema attendees or perhaps could there be a revolution on the horizon?