We keep hearing lately about the end of film and the death of film culture, but let's not forget one thing: the extinction of movie theaters has been slowly occurring for a number of years now and has been endangered for more than half a century. Eventually they might actually disappear. In 2142, maybe? I can see why people keep seeing threats to cinemas, but there's no way they're going away completely anytime soon.
Oh, but some bigwig in Europe has just declared a prediction that movie theaters are so doomed right now that they'll be gone quicker than most pessimists and other party poopers would dare to believe let alone state in polite company. Speaking at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival last week, financier and producer Angus Finney (The Safety of Objects) said that people would be watching movies on tablets and cell phones first and more often than in cinemas within months, not years.
That's not the coffin nail for theaters, but it is a bold vision to see such a quick preference for tiny-screen movie watching than big screen. But does it even mean preference? For decades many of us have been watching more television (and films on cable) than movies in the theater, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't rather see everything on the big screen or that we never go out to the movies. And if you took away the convenience and cheap cost of TV or a Netflix streaming app, we probably wouldn't be able to make the effort to see that many more movies outside the home anyway.
Finney's prediction is probably worse for conventional TV outlets and products than theatrical film releases, but just as TV influenced how films are shot (lots more close-ups), the same will happen with the move to portable screens. "You only have to notice the number of people who watch movies and TV shows on handheld devices," Finney told a crowd primarily made up of Abu Dhabi filmmakers. "That’s going to require a lot of thought as to the kind of content people make."
The exec also talked about the diminishing power of movie stars, which is more old news. Of course, it will always be said that small-screen watchers, whether they be using TV, cable, Netflix, VOD, iTunes, Redbox or whatever, much of what is chosen to watch is stuff that either has been heard of courtesy of a theatrical release and its accompanied marketing or the movie stars involved. Finney could be strictly focused on star appeal in Europe, however, and the attention to movie stars there actually could use a bit of a downturn.
I would assume that most of our readers and my Twitter followers are more of the cinephile and movie-geek ilk that highly prefers going to the movies to watching something on their phone, but I do bet the tablet has increased the number of you all watching Netflix, iTunes and other similar services on a portable device of some kind.
Do you watch more movies in a theater or on a handheld device?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
Join the next discussion on Twiter by following Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic) and Movies.com (@Moviesdotcom).
Producer Claims Tablets Will Overtake Theaters in Months, Not Years - Do You Agree?
[via The Hollywood Reporter]