February 26, 2007

Movies lose their status at the top of the cultural heap

Movies, once lauded as the dominant art form of the twentieth century, are being usurped by all manner of other media. It's not that the movies are any worse than they were (or better, for that matter), they just aren't held up as the cultural totem they once were.

Partly that's because there's a surfeit of other media out there, a bunch of different ways to watch movies, and a democratization of movie production that's taken it down a peg or two. And partly it's because a new generation of consumers is more interested in connecting with their network of friends and virtual acquaintances than what Hollywood has to say.

On the one hand, I love movies, and it's kind of sad to see them lose their primacy. But on the other hand, this was a change that was bound to happen. As the media goes from one to many to many to many, the the dictatorial nature of the movie screen loses out to a thousand text messages.

But at the same time our culture is more obsessed with celebrity and entertainment than ever, which requires the movie industry to fuel the ever churning rumour and hype mill. But then again, a whole new tier of Internet "stars" spring up at a lower level to feed the mill.

What's essentially happening is that we're witnessing a similar change in media consumption from when radio lost out the the movies, an the movies slipped a little in the face of TV. The difference this time is that the pubic is in control. What they'll do with this shiny media beast is uncertain, but it'll be fun to watch.

2 comment(s) so far (Post your own)


On February 28, 2007 3:33 AM, killahmullet said:

I agree that movies are losing their primacy, but I have a hard time believing the public is controlling their downfall.

I believe it has more to do with massive amounts of consumer choice. You could call this public control, but the stuff that sticks and makes money tends to come from corporations - take video games for instance, it's a multi-billion dollar industry that's taken a huge bite out of Hollywood profits.

And even though people are turning to YouTube for a fix at work, I think as time goes on people will see it for what it is: America's Funniest Home Videos on crack.

In the end, Hollywood will still serve up movies it sees fit and the public will still watch, I just think theatres will die and a new form of distribution will rise up to take their place. Entertainment companies will still profit and hype machine will live on.


On February 28, 2007 9:16 AM, Warren Frey said:

I think it's a mix of things.....but certainly today's viewing public has less interest in movies than previous ones, and that might have something to do with the fact that there are so many other options.

Plus, we're looking at this through the lens of bitter, busy thirtysomethings. I know when I was in my twenties, I thought nothing of lining up for the latest Hollywood spectacle, which was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER. Now, I generally prefer to watch movies at home, away from idiot teenagers and other cinema patrons. PLus technology has gotten to the point where a widescreen hi-def television is pretty affordable, so you get a fair bit of the cinema experience at home.

And I'll be the first to agree with you on video games...more entertainment, more immersive, and quite possibly the primary driver for a lot of HDTV purchases .

But you're right that it's not just going to be "the little guy", because it never is. Inevitably the guys with money will adapt to new circumstances and add something only they can, because they have more resources. Video games are a good example of that, since most games cost millions to produce and take years to finish.

There does appear to be a middle ground emerging, though. Blogs and websites seem to be more about conversation than slick presentation, and vidcasts are reflecting this phenomenon. Simple interviews and short subjects seem to be what works best in this new medium, though of course it'll be a while before we can accurately judge what works and what doesn't.

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