I didn’t see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug this week. I couldn’t. My weekend was too packed with stuff to do ahead of the holidays, and part of being married means you can’t just run off and see whatever three hour movie you want at any given point in time.
And yet, I did manage to watch 11 hours of Brooklyn Nine Nine this week, which is probably a little longer that Smaug in total running time. So, how did I do it? Why was there time for one and not the other, when I should theoretically be keeping up with both in order to retain my status as “guy who knows what’s going on in pop culture?” The answer represents a growing divide between TV and movies as leisure activities. In short, it’s becoming more difficult to watch movies, and far easier to consume television.
For starters, we’ll talk about how I can consume either. For Desolation of Smaug, I have to drive to a theater. That is literally the only place I can see anything approaching a quality version of the film, as online piracy would produce dingy results at best.
But for Brooklyn Nine Nine? I’m going to generalize here about TV because all shows aren’t available in ALL these ways, but generally I could have done one of the following:
– Watched the show from stockpiled DVR records
– Watched the show streaming on FOX.com
– Watched the show on Netflix
– Watched the show via 720p high quality torrents the day after they air
All from the comfort of my living room.
And then there’s cost. For my wife and I to see Smaug, tickets would have been $24 at cheapest (select times only) and $36 for IMAX 3D HFR ETC. Food would add anywhere from $5 to $20 on top of that, depending on what we got.
Yes, cable is “expensive as shit,” but not when you view it as paying per hour of entertainment. Even being generous and saying I’m paying $30 for three hours of Hobbit, that’s $10 an hour for my wife and I. My cable bill is $60, but am I only watching six hours of TV a month? Hell no, and things get even more obviously lopsided if I’m including Netflix, where we’ll spend dozens of hours watching TV (and movies, for that matter) for $15 a month.
The inconvenience of a theater is now starting to dramatically outweigh the pros of going. You get a big screen and the chance to see a movie as soon as possible. But you have to orchestrate your entire night around the event, and if you’re grown up, make dinner reservations and hire a babysitter based on the film time. You drive to and from and have no control over the behavior of the audience when you get there. Sometimes you’ll be forced into unwanted seats. And so on.
Granted, none of these problems are new to movies. They’ve been present for years and years now. But TV has gotten a lot more convenient while movies have remained static and only increased in cost. TV used to force you into a much smaller of window of time than movies, demanding you be somewhere at this time on this night or else you would forever miss the broadcast. Now, there are so many ways to watch any show an hour later, or a week later, that this is no longer an issue, and TV has become much more convenient to consume than movies.
Staying in your home has nearly an infinite number of benefits that combat all the convenience issues I’ve already mentioned with movies. Put the kids to bed and pop on whatever show you want, no babysitter required. Food is whatever you want to pay for pizza delivery or from the grocery store, rather than $6 bottles of water and $4 bags of M&Ms. Popcorn is 25 cents, not $8. The show starts whenever you want, and can be paused for any number of distractions. You will likely find far less people talking in your living room than you will in a theater, and if so, you don’t have to feel bad yelling at them.
All of this is amplified by the simple fact that many TV shows are now more compelling than movies these days. The last decade has dramatically increased the quality of shows on air, and though that’s it’s own post, you’re not sitting around to watch Full House or Matlock anymore (though Matlock is awesome). You’re watching Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Arrested Development and any other number of gripping or hilarious shows that are just as good as almost any film, if not better. Movies are still enjoyable yes, but are they so much better than your favorite TV shows where they deserve to be showered in money and special treatment? I don’t think so.
How about you?