Can cinema survive in a golden age of serial TV?





Syda Productions/Shutterstock


Deborah Shaw, University of Portsmouth

There are many reasons you might think cinema is going the way of the dinosaurs. With the popularity of long-play TV series booming, are films “too short” now to allow the kind of plot and character development that we have become used to? In our changing world of media, does the distinction between “TV series” and “film” even make sense?

In a recent class, when I asked my film studies students who had watched the set film for the week only a few hands went up – and my heart sank. Searching for an explanation, I asked who had watched the latest episode of the popular Netflix show Stranger Things. Nearly every hand went up.

What does this anecdote reveal about changing viewing habits? Does the fact that even film students prefer the latest streaming series to the classic films set as coursework serve to illustrate the point that cinema is dying?

There is no doubt of the enormous appeal of the many long-form series readily available to subscribers of streamed content providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, HULU, iTunes, Google Play, and NowTV. Viewers can binge-watch or pace their way through their favourite show before algorithms point them to their next favourite show, in an endless addictive cycle of entertainment and sleep deprivation.

Screen companions and virtual friends


There are many reasons for the global popularity of streamed series. For one, their characters are often more diverse and interesting than many of those in mainstream Hollywood filmic fare. This is exemplified so well by shows such as Orange is the New Black, with a nearly all-female cast playing characters with diverse sexual orientations and ethnic and class backgrounds.






The cast of Orange is the New Black is bringing some diversity to our screens.
Editorial image/Shutterstock



Over the many hours of screen time, spanning many years in some cases, audiences become emotionally invested in characters’ stories. They become our screen companions and virtual friends. This has seen global fan bases emerge. These fans find kinship and a new kind of collective mourning when providers cancel their favourite show as seen with the devotees of the The OA. The size and influence of these groups has helped the success of campaigns like that of Sense8 fans, who fought for and won a finale of their cancelled show. Similarly, the fans of One Day at a Time helped it find its new home at cable network “Pop”.

The ultra long-play format of streamed series also allows time for extreme character development. The best known character evolution is perhaps that of Breaking Bad’s Walter White who makes a dramatic moral transformation from school teacher to conflicted drug kingpin over the show’s 62-hour run-time.

Hollywood cinema refuses to die


But traditional Hollywood cinema refuses to die – as evidenced by the boom in franchise event cinema. A recent report from the Motion Picture Association of America reveals rising worldwide cinema ticket sales. The total takings at the box office topped US$41 billion – and the number of cinema screens worldwide increased by 7% (to 190,000 screens). The report states that “there is no question that in this ever complex world of media, theatres are vital to overall entertainment industry success”.

But cinema still has its place. It allows a fantasy-filled retreat for family and friend entertainment – an immersive experience without the distraction of mobile phones, knocks on the door or family members talking over important bits. Cinemas, film societies, or open-air screenings become spaces where we can put our political divisions aside and cheer collectively for heroes overcoming odds to save screen worlds.







kitzzeh/Shutterstock



Blockbuster films may be thriving, but poetic art cinema has a more precarious place in the market and needs nurturing by cinephiles. Film director Alejandro G. Iñárritu (of The Revenant, Birdman, and Babel fame) recently spoke to Variety about how our worlds are being closed in by streaming services managed by “algorithms designed to keep feeding people what they like”. He added: “the problem is that the algorithms are very smart but they are not creative, and they don’t know what people don’t know they like.”

We are in a golden age of streaming content and at-the-cinema-film. We just need to be guided by more than algorithms to see the treasures hiding away in this new era of excess and neglect.

TV or film – what’s the difference?


To complicate the arguments about the relative merits of TV series and film, distinctions between film and television are less clear than they ever have been. Many films (particularly those involving superheroes) are no longer stand alone, but form part of a serial cinematic “Universe”.

Many TV series now consist of feature-length episodes. With a run-time of 151 minutes, we could ask whether the Sense8 finale was actually a Netflix film, rather than a single episode. And, does it even matter to viewers what we call it?

In a world where visual media is being increasingly viewed on tablets, mobile phones and laptops rather than in actual cinemas or on television sets perhaps the terms “cinema” and “television” no longer even make sense. This is an argument my co-editors and I make in a recent editorial for the journal Transnational Screens.

A key point is that streaming platforms such as Amazon and Netflix do not stand in opposition to cinema. Instead they have consumed cinema, repackaged it and made it available to global audiences. Powerful voices rail against the power of such platforms, but they do enhance screen culture and make cinema more available to global audiences.The Conversation

Deborah Shaw, Professor of Film and Screen Studies, University of Portsmouth

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Labels

Amanda Palmer Amazon ambient Andrew Elias andy warhol animal farm anna freeman anonymous Anthropocene Anthropology Anxiety aristotle arse art art news Art therapy Arthur O'Shaughnessy articles artists Arts Arts funding artzine ash audience australia avant garde Axwell babel bacon Bacteria bame bangalore Barnabe Barnes bat bats BBC BBC charter BBC licence fee BBC television Be Bop Deluxe bengaluru Berlin Berlin Wall Bhutan bigotry Bill Nelson Billy Bragg billy childish Bird conservation Birds Black academics Black history Black History Month 2019 blinded by the light blue light Blur Boards Bob Dylan Boris Johnson bow box sets British Empire British Museum Byron Camper Van Beethoven cartoon Cate le Bon cats cds charity charlie chaplin Cheese Cheesemaking childhood rhyme choir Christina Rossetti christmas cinema Classical music Climate change clothing Clubs Cold War collage colonial Coming up for Air Community competition Composition Coolio coorg Coronavirus Courtney Barnett covid-19 creative industry creativity Cultural institutions culture curator curious Curious Kids D H Lawrence dale harding dance Dance music Darren Hayman David Bowie david hockney death declan welsh deliveroo democracy Desert locust destruction Diet digital Digital archives DJs Dominic Cummings Dóra Maurer Doris Day download Dr Johnson dream Drenge drums Dumfries dundee Dylan Thomas e-book E. E. Cummings East Germany ECO economics economy Edgar Allan Poe Edna St Vincent Millay Edward Lear electronic Elizabeth Barrett Browning Employment English language Ensemble environment Epicurus Erasure Eric Ravilious Esra Furman essays Ethnic minorities European Research Group Evelyn Ida Morris exhibition extinction rebellion Ezra Furman facebook fashion Federico García Lorca Feminism Feminism and art festival film folk fontaines dc Food Food science foot artists France free free russia Future GDP gender inequality George Gascoigne George Harrison George Orwell Gig economy Glasgow Global perspectives Grammar Grayson Perry green issues grenfell Grime grotesque handel happiness Harry Graham hate Heatwave heaven 17 heritage heroes history hogmanay Hollywood homeless Homer Hot Chip humour if you feel it it's real iggy ignorance illustration Inclusive Music Making india indian Indie music Industrial Revolution instagram Interdisciplinarity international labour day international workers day interweb Isolation Italy ITV Jack Peñate James Joyce James Taylor janey godley jazz John Cooper Clarke John Keats john Lennon John Linney Journalistic ethics Judi Werthein kara walker Karl Marx Karnataka kat himmel Katharina Garrard (no relation) Katherine Mansfield Keep the Aspidistra Flying keith haring Ken Loach Ken Sprague kensington Kenya Khalil Gibran labour Lamb Language Laurie Anderson les dennis Lewis Carroll lgbtq lgbttqi lights lockdown Locusts london love lucy spraggan lyrics Mae West Malcolm X manchester Martin Niemoeller Marvin Gaye Matthew Arnold may day Maya Angelou McGonagall Meat Meat eaters memorials mental health messiah MGM Michael Sailstorfer Milk Milton mind MISSY HIGGINS Mistakes Mobile apps modern Monty Python moon Museums music music hall Music therapy Musicals my map mysore mysuru nanohour national gallery of scotland National Orchestra For All neil finn news nhs norfolk norwich Not sure if it's a poem novara media Ocean Colour Scene of course older age Older people Oliver Herford Opera Orchestras For All Ensemble Ornithology oxfam pain Paramount Pictures Patrick Staff Paul Garrard Paul McCartney Pay gap peace Pensions financial planning people people power perception Philip Larkin photo photography photos picture pitchfork podcasting podcasts poem poetry Political accountability Political communication Political journalism politics Pop music poster poverty Primal Scream print printing prints Psychasthenia public domain Purple pussy riot quote Race racism radio rainbow Raves Relaxation religion research Retirement Rewilding Richard Hawley Ringo Starr Robert Burns Robert Frank Robert Herrick Roman Empire Rose Finn-Kelcey Roy Lichtenstein Rudyard Kipling Rutles salad sandalwood satire sayings science scooty Serpentine sex Shakespears Sister Shelley Shocking Blue Sierra Leone silvery tay sin Sixties Sixties culture sketches Slave Trade Sleaford Mods snippet Snow Patrol social media socialism soundscape sparks Species reintroductions springsteen stained glass Stanley Spencer Steve Knightley Stewart Lee stratford-upon-avon streaming Strypes stuff Swinging Sixties Switzerland Sybil Andrews Sydney Smith taking back control tapes tate tay Techno music Telegram Tennyson the arts The Beatles The Clergyman's Daughter The Jam The National Gallery The Only Ones The Pocket Gods Theatre thing tips toilet humour tories traffic trains Transatlantic slave trade Trumbull Stickney trump type Uber UK comedy UK culture UK economy UK election 2019 UK politics UK pop music UK theatre UKIP understanding Unemployment unfinished unions Universities unknown author US movies valie export Van Gogh Veganism Vegetarianism Victorians video Vijaya Vitthala Temple vinyl Voter registration Voting W B Yeats wanted war Wassily Kandinsky water Wellbeing Welsh poetry Wendy Cope West Germany Wetlands WH Auden whales WhatsApp Wildfire Wilfred Owen William Blake William Shakespeare William Wordsworth Wilson Keppel and Betty women women academics Women in film woody guthrie Wordsworth working from home yeah yeah yeahs Young Composer Youth Orchestra Zero-hour contracts Zoom
Show more