According to the National Association of Theater Owners, the number of people visiting theaters has declined exponentially, falling to levels not seen since the 90s. This has prompted drastic measures by movie theaters, such as ticket deals that can be as low as $10 per month for weekly movies. Many factors have contributed to the decline of theaters, but the primary cause is the rise of streaming services. While many people, particularly theater owners, struggle to reconcile themselves to this change, the decline is not necessarily a bad thing, thanks to the benefits of the aforementioned streaming services. The notion that the decline of theaters is detrimental is false. Services like Netflix and HBO actually provide an enormous variety of perks to the viewing public, some of which do not apply to the industry and theater owners.
Streaming services are much cheaper than the cost of theater admissions. Today, HBOGo is $7.99 per month while Netflix ranges from $7.99 to $13.99 per month for an extremely wide range of movies and television shows. Theaters, by contrast, generally cost between $7-20 for a single movie, depending on the time and the theater. Thus streaming services, for roughly the price of one theater movie, provide an audience with a month’s worth of shows from a much larger selection than a movie theater can provide. Such streaming services are much more economical than movie theaters, essentially giving audiences more than theaters ever could. The ever-increasing size of television monitors and trend of in-home theaters make one of theaters’ main advantages — the larger screen — less necessary.
Yet, the most beneficial part of streaming services is not in its price. Rather, it lies in its accessibility. The ubiquity of the internet has made it so that streaming services are available almost anywhere. Even in more rural, less populated or more impoverished areas around the globe, if there is internet, streaming services enable people to view media in the same way as people in more urbanized areas might. While theaters may not be accessible in less developed areas, services like Netflix provide various forms of media at the literal click of a button.
The importance of this lies in cinema and television as an art. Media, while it is a form propagation, is not necessarily harmful. While it can be harmful in the form of propaganda and news manipulation, media also inspires. Movies about heroes inspire children to become heroes. Shows that illustrate humanity and goodness inspire us to live the same way. Media inspires people to act and change, which creates a better society. With the ubiquity of streaming services, inspiration becomes more prevalent and more accessible, while also giving those unable to reach movie theaters a better alternative. Because of this, I don’t particularly mind theaters disappearing if it means that streaming services can become more pervasive and more available.