Videos-on-Demand vs. Movie Theaters


Courtesy of Creative Commons

Jeremiah Hobbs

In the 1990s, a group of filmmakers calling themselves Dogme 95 challenged film by shooting on video instead. Videotapes were cheaper than film and they could shoot more takes without wasting much money.

In time, Dogme 95 influenced a range of filmmakers and changed how cinema is made. Videotapes were soon replaced by a far easier-to-work-with device called digital video. Nowadays, digital video recordings are how most films are shot.

Because of digital video, movies can now be delivered anywhere: phones, watches, computers, tablets, et cetera. Very few filmmakers are holding on to shooting their movies on actual film, Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino being just two.

Tarantino’s last film, “The Hateful Eight,” was purposely released in a particular film format that could only be shown at theaters that still had film reels and projectors   most movie theaters now only have digital projectors for movies stored as digital files. No more film reels.

Home-based entertainment has its appeal: videos-on-demand can be watched in bed, on the toilet, in the hallway waiting for another class to begin, at work waiting to clock-in.

The audience experience provided by movie theaters, however, delivers something home-based entertainment can never accomplish   a sense of community. Sure, complaints about people talking too loud or texting on their phone exist. However, as Christopher Nolan has stated, “most of us feel a pang of disappointment when we find ourselves in an empty theater.”

Laughing or fearing a scene on the big screen amidst random strangers is a completely different experience than doing so with friends. Being with strangers reminds us of our similarities with others   that a scene not just brought you to tears, or made you jump, but also did so to others you don’t know and colors your experience of a movie differently than watching it alone or with friends you already know have your sense of humor or similar fears.

Nolan has argued that movie theaters simply need to fight back against video-on-demand the way they did against television when it first presented itself. Nolan told “The Wall Street Journal,” “the theaters of the future will be bigger and more beautiful than ever before. They will employ expensive presentation formats that cannot be accessed or reproduced in the home (such as, ironically, film prints).”

Although the movie theater may offer a sense of community with strangers, VOD’s appeal to watching movies whenever and on whatever device is a far more attractive deal. Many aspects of the theater would have to change in order to attract attention again, because as most theaters stand now, the comfort of home is more evocative than a smelly theater with a sticky floor and leftover popcorn getting stuck to a shoe.

If Nolan is right, the movie theater will have to adapt in this new era of videos-on-demand in order to keep the general public interested in the theater experience.