08 November 2021

How Our Movie-Watching Culture is Changing

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Theaters around the world are sustaining massive blows because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In the US alone, AMC theaters almost went bankrupt and shut down their operations in early 2021. In Indonesia, large cinemas such as XXI and CGV either limit their business hours or completely stop their operations in major cities. It’s such a shame, considering that the Indonesian film industry had just experienced “an unprecedented boom” before the pandemic started, according to James Guild in an article published by New Mandala.


With theaters closing everywhere, there’s the big question: are cinemas gone for good? Experts predict that people will come back to cinemas after all the restrictions are over – we simply just can’t wait to get back to watching a hit movie in front of a giant screen with a bag of popcorn at hand. And as our culture evolves after the pandemic, cinemas are evolving, too. There will be more digitization, new experiences, and increased measures of safety. But in the meantime, with the decline of theater, another trend is on the rise: the growth of VOD.


Binge-Watching Fuels VOD Growth

A couple of years ago, when not going to cinemas, people used to rely on VCDs and DVDs to watch movies at home. We had to own a VCD/DVD player, grab some movies from a local store, and return them if we rented the movies. As multiple streaming devices (such as Smart TVs) became available to virtually everyone’s homes, gone are the days of disc movies. These days, we can easily watch our favorite films via streaming. And with lockdowns, WFH trends, and social restrictions, it seems that we stream movies and series… a lot.


This relatively new movie-watching culture of ours paves the way for the growth of VOD service providers. In Q1 of 2021, Netflix’s net income reached around $1.70 billion, thanks to the 270 million users who subscribe to their services. As a fairly new competitor, Disney+ also gained 103 million users who stream movies and series through their platform. Similar growth can be found in other similar platforms as film studios also have recently begun to consider exclusively releasing major titles as VODs (case in point, Justice League: The Snyder Cut on HBO Max).


Why Do We Stream A Lot?

And it seems that we’ll continue streaming VODs for several reasons. First of all is about having more options. VOD subscribers would know how easy it is to pick any movies or series (and how easy it equally is to binge-watch overnight a whole season of, say, a K-Drama). In the mood for revisiting good old classic movies? Some Japanese Anime? How about some thought-provoking, Nolan-esque films? A VOD subscriber can access any of these anytime they want, and such accessibility can’t be found in conventional movie-watching culture.


Streaming VODs is also much more economical. In Indonesia, for instance, 2 cinema tickets may be worth 1-month of VOD subscription. Some platforms also provide a package option that allows multiple users to use one joint account and stream movies on multiple devices. When the subscription fee is divided among the users, it can be much more affordable than a ticket. Some platforms also offer yearly subscriptions with a fee equal to the same amount of money you’d spend on popcorn, a cup of soda, and a movie ticket. 


Last but not least, streaming on-demand content is safer, especially considering that the pandemic isn’t over. Watching movies on your smart TV doesn’t require you to come into contact with different moviegoers. Be it sitting on your couch or laying in bed, watching VOD contents at home doesn’t require you to wear masks all the time. There’s also no commuting necessary, so you don’t have to worry about any kinds of risks that may arise from getting yourself to a cinema and going home late at night afterwards.


The Future of Movie-Watching Culture: Ruptured or Sutured?

If conventional movie-watching culture is declining, will VOD stay forever? Well… the answer is still clouded by uncertainty. Experts project that there might be a comeback for cinemas after the pandemic. We’ll certainly miss the great experience of watching movies in our favorite cinemas. But for now, it seems that most of us will keep streaming on-demand content while sitting on a couch. After all, streaming has three qualities that we all would love when purchasing any goods and services during a pandemic: easy, affordable, and safe.


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