Watch From Home: A Eulogy for Cinema

By Renzo Guevara
Watch From Home: A Eulogy for Cinema
I miss theaters. I miss walking in that dark hallway, being scared about bumping into someone since I can’t see a damn thing, I miss finishing most of my popcorn before the previews even end, and I miss walking out with everyone contemplating what we all just collectively experienced.

I just miss experiencing a film, man.

That’s not to say I haven’t watched anything since the lockdown, I have.

It’s just that being inside a theater hits different.

The atmosphere, the colder-than-usual-but-just-the-right-amount air conditioning, the fact that you are quite literally closed off from the rest of the world. It’s just you and the big screen - and the occasional guy who just won’t shut up and the girl who keeps using her phone with brightness turned up. Annoying as those can be, I miss being annoyed at them.

Call me old-fashioned but I like to view cinema as an experience. I don’t care how good or bad the film is. I still vividly remember the first time I bought a movie ticket on my own without my parents - feeling like I reached a whole new level of independence and maturity at that point.

Aaand... ACTION! Wait, can you pause it please?

When streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu hit the scene, people thought that was it for physical movie theaters. For almost a decade, they would mostly be relegated to TV shows, made-for-streaming films, or at worst - the new destination for the previously called “straight to DVD movie releases”. But the blockbusters still remain in cinemas.

Prior to the pandemic, movie theaters had 90-days exclusive rights to show a film before studios could bring them to home releases or streaming platforms. This is where most of the profits come from for theater owners. A portion of the box office sales even go directly into the bonus salaries for the people who worked on the film. Well, I’ve got some bad news.

Times are changin’

When WB Pictures, one of the biggest film studios in the world, announced that the rest of their 2021 releases would be coming simultaneously to both theaters and HBO Max, it received very mixed reactions.

Who can blame them for going that route? In just the first quarter of 2020, Netflix received 15 million new subscribers and in just one year, Disney Plus received 80 million. People flock to streaming services. We’re all stuck at home anyways, what else are we going to do?

Streaming platforms are upping their game with the quality of their original projects even going as far as to be nominated multiple times for awards. It’s not going away anytime soon.

“That ain’t Cinema.”

Call them what you like - elitists, cinephiles, pretentious, privileged, probably some other more “colorful” adjectives can be found in a lovely place called film twitter. There are filmmakers out there who are very outspoken when it comes to the streaming vs. theatrical release debate.

In an interview with Hollywood Reporter regarding the WB Studios decision, Director Christopher Nolan (who’s also an advocate of the movie theater experience) said that: “Some of our industry’s biggest film-makers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service.”

Yikes.

Convenience comes at a cost when it comes to the digital world. When a film is distributed online, it’s free real estate for piracy. Just take a look at what happened to the music industry.

According to analytics company Sandvine, BitTorrent accounted for 45% of all uploads in 2019. That’s before the pandemic. Think about that.

“Are you still watching?”

It’s kinda ironic how Netflix asks this every once in a while. It’s like they know people’s attention span is significantly less nowadays.

Even though I don’t think cinemas will fully disappear, they are turning into the less popular choice.

The younger generations are now more familiar with watching movies at home. It’s weird to think that I might one day meet a kid who doesn’t even know what a cinema is.

Theatrical releases and streaming will continue to coexist in the future. Consumer behavior just demands for it. There will always be people who gravitate more towards a traditional theater experience like me but there will also be ones who prefer to sit on their couch, pause, fast forward, rewind, play with their pets, scroll through their phone type of movie goers.  

Make sure you’re heard. Let’s work together.