In the second of our series looking at the supposed death of traditional communities, Essential Journal’s cinema writer, Tom Williams looks at the rise of Netflix and the everlasting magic of the silver screen.
Online streaming is becoming more and more prominent in the modern era, with several cheap subscription services offering thousands of movies at the consumer’s fingertips. However, up until fairly recently they have excelled primarily in original television series’ and films released by other companies. Now we are witnessing the likes of Amazon and Netflix funding films which are capable of competing with the biggest cinema releases. Amazon Studios had a major role in the production of Manchester by the Sea and Paterson, both of which were greeted with widespread approval. Now it is becoming increasingly likely that big releases will be made exclusively available online, removing the cinema-going experience altogether. Take Netflix’s acquisition of Martin Scorsese’s $100 million project with Al Pacino, The Irishman, as a prime example.
It’s no secret that the amount of people heading to the cinema is decreasing, but are Netflix and friends capable of destroying the cinema experience? Perhaps not, but they’ll certainly make a dent. Much like illegal downloads and the iTunes store, the rise of technology has played a huge role in decreasing the number of cinema-goers, because good films are more easily available from the comfort of one’s home.
Many reputable sources have pronounced cinema to be dead, Tarantino did so in 2014 and a host of new sources have also done the same, The Boston Globe and The Huffington Post for example. However, Godard also marked cinema’s death in ’67 so these comments should always be taken with several pinches of salt. As an experience, cinema will never die. As seen with the vinyl-renaissance, nostalgia is always going to be a big seller. There’s still a huge market of people (and not just old people) going to the cinema in search of a more fulfilling movie watching experience, as opposed to a 13 inch laptop with terrible speakers. Another beacon of hope are film festivals. Film festivals remain a vital part of the industry where new talent is discovered on the big screen, their more abstract nature makes them less eligible for widespread market success and thus less touched by the likes of Netflix.
Netflix isn’t all bad however. It is undeniable that we are in a golden age of television, and that does not refer to the stagnant ITV dramas that have been in circulation. It refers to the series’ that are available on Netflix, from the remarkable Master of None to the totally unique Bojack Horseman. Netflix offers a platform mostly free from corporate interference and allows more free reign for the creative influences in charge, which is perhaps why Scorsese chose the platform for his next project.
Netflix hasn’t killed TV and it’s not going to kill cinema any time soon. Cinema isn’t dying, it’s just changing – there are always going to be movies better suited for the cinema than anywhere else and Netflix knows this. They are not seeking market domination, they just want to make their mark on the industry, and by no means are they churning out rubbish. Netflix originals and cinema releases can coexist with each other, as no one can take away the magic of the cinema. EJ