Flix forever — Amid technological changes, movie entertainment remains cultural reference point
The Internet is shifting the ways in which people see movies, but cinema is far from streaming into chaos.Miles Hendrix, University of Idaho sophomore, said traditional DVDs are on the decline and he doesn’t recall the last time he watched one.
“They’re not totally obsolete, but they’re becoming that way (and that’s) creepy,” he said. “There’s a market for (them), but with viral video and getting everything on your phone or computer, it’s just all digitalized. It’s not a problem — it’s just the evolution of technology.”
Hendrix said he watched a lot of comedic TV and movies with a VHS/DVD combination unit as a child. Now he catches stand-up comedy specials on his laptop with Netflix, and sketch comedy videos with YouTube and Hulu. Netflix has largely replaced the movie theater for him, except on special occasions, he said, and he doesn’t buy movies to watch at home.
“I don’t own a TV,” he said. “I don’t waste money on it, or the DVD setup and buying DVDs, because I just have a laptop and that’s fine. That’s all I need.”
Russell Meeuf, clinical assistant professor in the school of journalism and mass media, said he streams movies through Netflix frequently, and also receives Netflix DVDs by mail.
Meeuf streams media during lunch breaks at home, or falls back on quick episodes of television shows rather than two-hour movies after a workday. The convenience of media access and the methods of access available — from big-screen TVs to iPods — has an impact on our expectations of film as well as our preferences for duration of entertainment, he said. Meeuf said he watches fewer films than he used to.
“It’s much easier to watch an episode of (something) rather than sit down and watch an entire movie, because you’re squeezing it in when you can in your schedule and you’re not turning it into an event,” he said. “I do think people tend to watch shorter stuff in order to engage with it fully and get a nice, quick burst of media.”
Meeuf said the availability of media doesn’t take away the special quality of planning a movie night with friends and family. Rather, he said, it’s simply a matter of more options.
“I think in many ways it’s created more access to media for that kind of (group) viewing,” he said.
The proliferation of movie media across platforms such as the iPod and Netflix hasn’t hampered the traditional theater experience, Meeuf said. Hollywood isn’t significantly impacted by piracy despite its efforts to suggest otherwise, and in fact is seeing record profits. The staid 1950s model of bigger, better spectacles coupled with low-budget and “independent” films that cushion profit margins has remained viable. The techniques have simply gotten more advanced, he said, such as 3D and computer-generated imagery.
“In many ways what we’re seeing today is exactly the same thing that Hollywood did in the 1950s when it was first threatened by declining attendance because of television,” Meeuf said. “The response (then) was to both go big and go small.”
Sophie Deick, UI junior, said she has maybe attended three movies in the last year, and only because friends took her along. When she chooses to see movies in theaters, she said she prefers “shiny” ones with high production value like James Cameron’s “Avatar” and Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings.” Deick and her boyfriend have numerous DVDs, which she collects from garage sales and he gets from his family, she said. She hasn’t subscribed to Netflix because it’s a media outlet that requires a solid Internet connection.
Deick said she usually watches movies at home with her boyfriend to relax. Movies are a special occasion at her place, however, when they invite friends.
“It’s not usually an event unless we have people over, we’re feeding them and there’s popcorn everywhere,” she said.
Despite shifting technological trends and myriad methods of movie consumption, Meeuf said people are still able to sit down and enjoy a good flick together.
“It’s saturated other parts of our lives, but I don’t think it’s necessarily done so to the detriment of these kinds of communal media-viewing events,” he said.
Matt Maw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org