Does the proliferation of DVDs and access to the Internet for streaming or downloading films mean the death of the cinema?
Predictions of the demise of the theater-going experience for the purpose of viewing films in the age of home entertainment systems and routine access to the Internet have been around for many years. To date, increased access to first-rate movies in one’s home via DVDs and the Internet have not had that result. Box office receipts continue to demonstrate that there remains a market for viewing movies on much larger screens, and with much better sound systems than are attainable in most homes. Millions of people continue to flock to theaters to see “blockbusters” that are inarguably more enjoyable on full-size theater screens than on all but the very largest home television or projection screens. It remains safe to suggest that, as with the “Star Wars” series, “The Lord of the Rings,” “Avatar,” “Titanic,” or the latest releases like “Gravity,” many films continue to be more enjoyable when viewed on full-size screens with the latest audio technology.
A question that is more difficult to answer, however, is whether the prevalence of DVDs and the Internet is repressing the market for lower-budget films and whether this phenomenon is reducing incidences of multiple viewings, especially by children and young adults who like to view the same film multiple times in a short span of time. The easy accessibility of almost all films in DVD format for the same price as a family trip to the local multiplex makes it highly unlikely that this element of the film and theater industries is surviving social transformations unaffected. Additionally, the perceived requirement on the part of theater owners for regular renovations and technical improvements to their facilities indicates that pressure from home-viewing options is being felt in reduced revenues. At the moment, movie theaters continue to make money; whether the production of films will continue to provide products capable of enticing the number of consumers to the theaters necessary to make a profit on these films while also supporting the financial requirements of theater owners, however, remains uncertain. Global DVD sales have helped the film industry to recoup the costs associated with making big-budget films. With the costs of such films now running into the hundreds of millions of dollars (“Avatar” is estimated to have cost upwards of $300 million to produce), recouping such expenses in a domestic market increasingly saturated with viable viewing options that don’t involve sticky floors, noisy strangers sitting behind one’s seat and exorbitant costs associated with purchasing food and drinks is an increasingly unlikely proposition. Theater owners are almost certainly feeling the pinch.