Netflix v. The Theater

Happy Friday, friends! The motion picture industry has constantly evolved since its origin. An industry that began with nickelodeon movies, films that could be seen in theaters for a nickel, now has the luxury of releasing projects on the Internet using streaming services like Netflix. This new age of technology and distribution has created an interesting debate as Netflix original films like Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) were allowed to enter film festivals this past year–does discovering movies on Netflix ruin the movie-going experience? Of course not! I understand that some filmmakers believe that the only true way to discover films for the first time is at the theater, but that doesn’t make it any less snobby.

One simple truth I’m not sure many filmmakers take into account when spitting on Netflix’s ability to premiere films: going to the movies is expensive! Think about it. To see one film for folks over 12 at an evening showtime is at least $11 for a ticket. Then, if you have kids, it’s at least another $6 per child under 12. You’ve spent nearly $20 before you’ve even reached concessions! Maybe I’ve only recently thought about this after working at a movie theater or living in New York, where I can rarely get a ticket less than $14, but I’ve realized the monetary appeal to watching new movies on Netflix or waiting until films are released on streaming services. For a monthly bill equivalent to one movie ticket, Netflix users have access to Netflix original content and films that they missed at the theater. To see movies in theaters on a regular basis just isn’t practical if average people, college students included, don’t want to go broke.

Since its beginning, the motion picture industry has changed with the new technology that developed. Technology is always changing, therefore, the film industry must adapt as well. But, that doesn’t stop at how movies at made. Movies started off only about to be seen when projected at theaters. Then came television and people were occasionally able to watch movies from home. VHS tapes and DVDs were invented and gave people more alternatives to paying for movie tickets. DVDs, especially, allowed audiences to purchase a movie for roughly $20 and watch it as many times as they please. Before streaming was even a thing, there was Blockbuster and other rental shops that let movie-watchers rent DVDs for as little as $3. Why would you even need to go to the movies! The argument that  Netflix is ruining the art of film is, in a way, pretty far fetch being that there have always been more accessible ways to see new movies. Netflix is simply the easiest and most economical option available in this day in age.

I’m not saying that people have no reason to go to the movies. Go to the movies is my semi-expensive hobby, duh! The popcorn, the comfy seats, the great artistic form called film–what’s not to love? I remember vividly seeing some of my favorite movies at the theater. I remember the moments of the whole audience erupted watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens or how I could just feel everyone yearning for Juan’s presence in the last two chapters of Moonlight (which you should watch on Amazon Prime). Discovering movies in theater is a part of why I came to love film, but Netflix has been a major part of finding that love simultaneously. Netflix enabled me to finally watch The Color Purple for the first time all the way through after years of attempts (I would sob through the first 30 minutes and decide I was too emotional to finish). It was on Netflix that I thoughtless chose to watch Philadephia one Sunday morning and taken aback by how effortlessly talented Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington are. And, of course, sob my eyes out. I defintely wouldn’t have been able to fall in love with Okja, the titular, fictional super-pig, while not eating meat for a month if I didn’t have Netflix. If it weren’t for Netflix, I can’t be confident that I would have discovered some of my favorite films.

The industry has been changing with the technology since its existence and Netflix is simply the newest way to distribute films. So, the argument can’t be that Netflix is the antithesis of the business if said business never stays the same. What could be hurting the experience of going to theater to see the latest films is how people have changed how they would like to experience watching movies. Many people would rather watch a new movie in the comfort of their home, and streaming services weren’t the first to provide this desire. Rental stores and VOD allowed audiences to enjoy the latest movies on the couch years before Netflix began to stream online, and now movies theaters are following suit with new reclining seats and dining options. Frankly, it’s pretentious to proclaim which mode of viewing is the only right way to enjoy and fully experience a new film. I won’t stop going to the movies any time soon, but Netflix is the new frontier. Let’s get on board, people. 

Through my eyes,

Sydney ❤

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