Is Television taking over the Cinema?
Cinema attendance is dropping we're led to believe, and the fault is firmly placed at the door of piracy by Hollywood. People are more likely to download a movie for free and watch it on their PC than go out for the evening and enjoy a movie at the cinema.
Is that true though, is it the fault of you home PC when not everyone has one and people still use dialup services (or so my stats tell me). Something that's more common in every home is the television and in the last few years we've seen the rise of the television series of movie scale.
Series are becoming bigger, bigger budgets, bigger actors and bigger scale. The plot lines are spanning series and they tackle larger, much more movie themed tales.
Before this rise entertainment was lighter and episodic. It wouldn't matter if you missed episode 12 because you knew where everyone was at the start of episode 13. They all began at the same point as they always had, encountered some incident, placed characters in peril and at a decision point, resolved this, saved the day, and returned to normal life.
I saw all that start to change with Babylon 5. The programme required that you invested time to follow each episode and each series. Getting the emotional involvement in the large cast of characters, understanding much more complex storylines, the politics of the plot and the three dimensional characters themselves. Characters, their decisions and storylines were no longer black and white, two dimensional and pulled from the standard stock, they were real people.
Love or hate Babylon 5, that was one of the first series to really attempt that kind of programming, and now our television is rife with it. Even standard soap type television is turning this way with Desperate Housewives or Six Feet Under.
How can the cinema compete? They are limited to plot and character development for a mere two hours, sometimes three if your cinema is comfy, whereas these series have fifty minute slots spread across twenty episodes and perhaps multiple series.
Over that length of time the budget and cast can rival that of a movie, and delivered in people friendly chunks direct to their homes for the price of a television license that they already pay for.
Add to that the growing trend of larger televisions in the home, the average size now being twenty eight inches, with more complex picture and sound systems and you'll find the previous strengths of the cinema being slowly encroached upon.
However, the two medium are still very different, a serialised movie over twelve, fifty minute episodes is entirely different watching to a two hour movie. Can the two really be compared are these series merely fitting into a captive audiences viewing schedule rather than taking over from a trip out to the cinema?
A scriptwriter told me that everything is specifically written for the small screen, in that lulls are incorporated into the story to allow people to miss a few minutes and still retain the story. These are out with the normal advertising breaks and are to ensure that viewers can pop off and make a cup of tea.
On film there's not the same focus. You have a captive audience, and as he said to me, you have to continually hit them with snowballs in the face, snowballs with stones in them. Okay, so not all the movies we see meet those criteria, but it certainly shows that the two types of entertainment are very different.
Is there a place for both types of entertainment, or are these serialised movie, high budget television shows with rich and more complex storylines and characters, beginning to take away from the cinemas? Is it not just pirating at fault but the rise of quality, feature length television series?