Are we living in a cine-literate society?
We live in a society where we have unlimited access to pretty much every movie that has ever been released. From physical media such as Blu-ray and DVD to streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Flixster, we have been given the opportunity to watch what we want, whenever and wherever we want. However, in this age of digital media, do we take full advantage of what is offered to us? Are we living in a society that over-indulges and obsesses over media in any form? Whatever the case, the way in which we watch and understand movies has changed vastly from what it once was.
A decade ago, we could only watch a film at the cinema or have to wait for months later until it was released on DVD. The concept of watching a film over the internet was still considered to be something of a novelty, a wasted effort for those devoted individuals who were willing to put up with dropping bandwith and sub-standard video quality. Now, back to present day, services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video offers HD streaming of thousands of titles available to watch on Computer’s, TV’s, Tablets, Kindles and even mobile phones. The online streaming of movies and television has become the norm in contemporary society and a Netflix subscription is as common as a Sky + box. In fact, by August 2013, the video streaming site Netflix had almost 1.5 million subscribers in the UK alone, a figure, which has been attributed to, the growing popularity of critically acclaimed hit American shows like Breaking Bad and House of Cards. The idea of “binge-watching” came directly from these shows; compulsive viewers would marathon countless episodes or entire seasons of shows like Breaking Bad in the comfort of their own homes, often on a weekend or days off, perhaps replacing the event of “Saturday night at the movies”.
Netflix and Amazon Instant Video don’t just offer popular television shows and hit blockbusters; they allow for contributions from world cinema and independent documentaries, films like the controversial Blackfish have found a new level of popularity and acclaim that would never have been achieved by a theatrical or DVD release. Art house cinema, in particular has found a second home on these streaming sites. Viewers at home are able to watch Joss Whedon’s award-winning adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing on Amazon Instant Video or Woody Allen’s seminal Annie Hall on Netflix, without having to track down an obscure Region 1 DVD release or find a independent cinema hundreds of miles away from where they live.
One of the most interesting elements of Netflix and Amazon Instant Video is the access to the various sub-genres. Both services have a growing library of titles in the Gay/Lesbian subgenre, which in my eyes, is a great thing. These online movie-streaming services have increased the diversity in the way that we watch movies in the 21st century.
Online streaming sites often suggest linking social media with the service, allowing us to share, recommend and rate the films and television that we watch. To give an example of the impact of social media on Netflix, I was recommended the documentary Catfish by a friend on Facebook. After I watched the documentary, I went onto rate and recommend the film to several friends on my Facebook page, hoping they would enjoy it as much as I did. This may seem like an everyday occurrence, but when you break it down, Netflix has changed the ways in which we watch movies as a collective. Watching a movie has become a social experience and Netflix and Amazon Instant Video have integrated this process and made it much easier to circulate movies within our social circles making it a more cine-literate modern world.
In the age of streaming sites, many have come to believe that physical media is dead, but as a worldwide audience, we are still impatient and demanding. For example, Disney’s Frozen managed to sell 3.2 million units in the first day of its home media release, whilst it was still playing in cinemas all around the world. As a cine-literate society, we want to watch new films not only as fast as possible but also in the best quality, we buy Blu-ray for the best possible audio and visual quality, meaning that most modern film audiences will use a mixture of physical media and streaming services to fully quench their movie thirst.
The internet has played a key role in the rise of cine-literacy and one of the most important online movie resources is the Internet Movie Database (abbreviated as IMDB). Since 1990, IMDB has become one of the most important and integral tools for moviegoers, both for professional and recreational users alike, the website provides full and concise information for almost 3 million movies: detailing the cast, crew, locations, soundtracks and even complex technical information. Anyone with access to IMDB will have the knowledge of an expert film buff at their fingertips: they will be able to wield the power to end the countless “Is that the guy from?” and “What’s that film called?” conversations that plague our everyday lives. IMDB can even be accessed on mobile phones and tablets, allowing for instant access to a whole encyclopaedia of film, and with over 52 million users, IMDB is evidence of a more cine-literate knowledge-hungry generation of film enthusiasts.
The idea of a cine-literate society is a society that is familiar with cinema, one that is obsessed by moving images and their meaning. Online streaming sites and reference tools let us indulge in the world of cinema whenever we please, we want to know everything about cinema and we want the world to know it. We have become an impatient audience who wants to watch everything that we possibly can, at a location or medium of our choice, whether it’d be a packed Cineplex on a Friday night or in the comfort of our beds on a tablet.
Whether the idea of a cine-literate society is a good or bad thing is another argument for another time, but we cannot deny that as an audience, we have changed so rapidly that the entertainment industry has to alter to our own growing demanding needs.