- The Age of Streaming has also ushered in a golden age of cheap, plentiful, on-demand content.
- But limitless options and the constant urge to multitask makes the ritual of going to a theater now more relevant than ever.
- As streaming services continue to refine their content, I’ll continue paying for the convenience of streaming from apps like Hulu and Disney+ – as well as the experience and community of going to the movies.
A few weeks ago, I paid $35 for something I technically already owned. “The Irishman,” Martin Scorsese’s latest film, was showing at a small New York City theater, and I’d gotten tickets for myself and my boyfriend.
It, like the other movie I saw in-person that week – “Marriage Story” – was already available on Netflix. Currently, these films are helping Netflix lead the film category in Golden Globe nominations, and they’re included in your $13 monthly fee.
But while “cheap and fast” are major perks in most areas of life, films are an exception. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and Disney+ have made unlimited content possible and, in the case of “The Irishman” , made a $160 million budget possible.
But at home, the experience is compromised by multitasking. A movie theater imposes limits. It’s dark. Phones turn off. People quiet. And for an increasingly rare few hours, you’re able to devote your attention to a singular subject.
And the movie experience is better than at home. The screen is larger. The sound system is better. And despite the siren-song of startups that urge you to stay in and nest and the isolating effect of technology, you’re out in public, shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers that likely defy the traditional demographic boundaries of your life. The only thing you definitely have in common is that each of you chose to see this movie.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the convenience of streaming services. And I credit Hulu, Netflix, and Prime Video with making some of the best television of the last decade. But I also love the inconvenience of the theater. It restores movie-watching to an occasion rather than an activity. I’ll still jump to pay more to see important cinematic debuts like Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” and Melina Matsoukas’ “Queen & Slim” in the theater.
We showed up 30 minutes early to “The Irishman” to stand in the cold for first-come-first-serve seats. And a few days later, when the experience had settled and my opinion had solidified, I sat down, turned on Netflix, and pressed play on it again.