Netflix vs the big screen: Is the streaming giant hammering the final nails in cinema's coffin?

Netflix vs the big screen: Is the streaming giant hammering the final nails in cinema's coffin?
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Last month Netflix pulled out of the Cannes Film Festival which opened on Tuesday. According to the new rule from the Film Festival, films without theatrical distribution are banned from screening at the competition, nevertheless, Netflix is allowed to screen films out of the competition to which Netflix completely withdrew from screening any films “There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there,” Ted Sarandos spoke for Netflix.

According to another report, Netflix reached 118 million subscribers worldwide of which, 55 million is the US subscribers, which means about two in ten people in the US have Netflix now! This massive shift in the media consumption has caused a major debate: "Does it really matter if I just watch a movie at home?" 

In 1997 Netflix started as an online DVD rental website and now it is an enormous ledge of entertainment content. The Netflix website says "Members can watch (original series, documentaries and feature films) as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on nearly any Internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments.

This alone answers a lot of unasked questions. However, the theatres have been existing for a long time now and the culture, history, and tradition associated with it has created a strong warranty among filmgoers. A dilemma in the choice: the convenience of solitary experience versus the culture of the social movie experience. 

'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' special screening in a local multiplex last year was the most memorable encounter to me, the auditorium was full of Star Wars Fans and the sonance of the fandom was special and comforting. I also watched the  Oscar nominee and a Hungarian masterpiece 'On Body and Soul' on Netflix which did not have a theatrical release. How do we juggle between tedious journeys to a theater and a comfortable home/room film experience? As far as visual experience is concerned, along with Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk , Netflix's Mudbound too made it to the Oscars. The debate is going to be in the air for a while now, however, the drawback list is on both the sides of the spectrum. We give a breakdown:



For the theater experience:

The ideal aspects of a theater like culture, experience, and social custom aside, in reality, getting up, finding the show that suits your work timings, trading your kidney for the ticket money and paying extra charges that include Internet charges, 3D glasses and a bucket of popcorn that costs a billion dollars. It is an activity now that takes a lot of effort and money and unlike the old days, people running through the halls and finally entering the theater with their unpunctual heads' covering the screens is now a part of the experience.

There are a lot of positive things about watching a movie in a theater, 'Gravity' in 3D was an amazing experience more recently 'Dunkirk' in IMAX. 'A Quiet Place' was rather a wondrous experience but sadly it was overpowered by the sonic booms of 'Pacific Rim'. 

It used to be a fine experience before the smartphones, but the tech addicts won't agree to keep away their blatant pings and dings of their phones. So many people using their phones in the halls do nothing but distract ten others from the movie. Theater experience, unlike television, was intended to be uninterrupted but now it is constant disturbance with a baby crying, the couple that won't stop whispering and some guy with his Snapchat story.


The same multiplexes bring a ton load of crappy commercials about random things which change the mood of the hall altogether, these commercials are before the movie, between the movie (if with intervals) and after the movie which is a bummer when it comes to cinematic experience.

Streaming services encourage smaller corporations and independent filmmakers with their limited release while in theatres none of these films make it cause the 76 superheroes in Infinity War needed more screens to accommodate. The Independent films have a potential audience which will never see these films on big screens because of the limited distribution.

Overall, the substitution is significant and fast.

For the Netflix experience

It is safe to say that it is downright impossible to create a theater-like experience of 'Avatar' and 'Dunkirk' even 'Phantom Thread' on a small screen at home. There is a lot of effort put into visual effects and imagery of the film and watching it on an IPad would not only result in the loss of quality of experience but also is a disdain to the filmmaker. A lot of films are designed for a bigger screen 'Blade Runner 2049' and 'Mad Max Fury Road' are few which result in a different experience totally depending on the screen size.


And some movies will never be the same if they ever release on Netflix, Star Wars, MCU, DC or Fast and Furious, these screenings are special for the fans. These movies are most integral to some social groups adding to a very special occasion. The experience in a cinema hall with hundreds of other people who are just as passionate as you add to the heritage of the film world.

With streaming, most of us have developed this habit of rewinding the dialogue/ scene we missed, which just defies the transcendental aspect of a film. For most of us, a movie is an escape from the reality and now with so many distractions around it is just impossible to have complete involvement. Somewhere deep down we know we can rewind. 

The social aspect of a movie was brought to "Netflix and Chill" too,  a bunch of people watching a film together now has become a peril. Any social group varies in interests and disinterested can't shut up. Hence, the Netflix takes the social aspect out of the picture.


Supporting a local enterprise over say a multi-dollar service could be of preference but however, again the theater experience has declined too.

For a balance of experience:

It is impossible to take either one of them out, the solution is however in the balance. The theaters went from the traditional projection to Digital projection while DVDs became Internet Streaming. The innovation and technology caused evolution in both the cases.

The access is also one of the chief concerns, the Independent films could be easily made available to a large audience through Netflix while a blockbuster franchise movie could release the way it has been releasing.

Finding the right balance is the key, a movie like 'Blade Runner 2049' is necessarily a big-screen movie and keeping it there serves all. While 'Okja' could be accessed through Netflix with no problem. 3D or VR like experience is something home entertainment will take time to adjust to while the theaters are in prime when it comes to this.


The real answer to what is better, what is ideal and could be found out when a movie releases on both the platforms!