Isaiah Freedman Sports Editor
Before the early 2000s, cinema reigned supreme over television shows. Famous actors would always flock to Hollywood, while TV was relegated to the actors who “couldn’t make it on the big screen”. But ever since shows such as ‘The Sopranos’,‘The Wire’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ became smash-successes quarterbacked by big-time actors in the early-to-late 2000s, TV has slowly started to flip the script on Hollywood.
Fast-forward to 2016, and TV is smack-in-the-middle of its golden age, with subscription-based services such as HBO, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu flourishing under the millennial-driven 21st century for television. Meanwhile, Hollywood is still clinging to past glories when chasing success, with the latest example being “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, which had many plot similarities to “A New Hope”. There are many factors behind this changing of the guard. Some are numbers-driven, while others are opinions of viewers.
According to the Nielsen Ratings, the Oscars drew in 78.0 million viewers in 1999, but only 36.6 million viewers in 2015. That is quite a precipitous drop-off, especially considering the number of household televisions has no doubt skyrocketed since the late 90s.
An argument can be made that out of the 10 highest grossing movies of all time, nine of them were released past 2010 (“Titanic” being the outlier). However, a big factor in those numbers is inflation. A movie ticket now is double the price of a movie ticket 15 years ago, so it’s hard to take those rankings seriously.
A more accurate trend to measure movie success is how the number of ticket sales have fared over the years. In 2001, there were a whopping 1,464,580,750 tickets sold in the U.S. (Numbers.com). In 2015, while there were still a ton of tickets doled out (1,340,471,452), about 124 million more tickets were sold in 2001 than now, indicating that: A. There are not as many good movies out now, and people are noticing, or B. People don’t want to go to the movies anymore, and perhaps prefer movie night at home.
Another big reason is accessibility. In an age where you can plop down on a couch whenever you want and indulge in a whole season’s worth of a show, any alternative is inconvenient in comparison. If you want to go to the movies, you have to buy tickets, seats, parking and, most importantly, leave the house. I know that sounds like it’s not a big deal, but compared to being in the comfort of one’s home, where it is okay for a cell phone to go off, going to the movies is not the preferred viewing experience that it once was.
Among the four main streaming services listed above, the average monthly cost per service is $9.75, which is almost exactly the price it is to see one movie in the theatres in 2016. It is more bang for your buck to have hundreds of different episodes at your fingertips in the solitude of your home for the same price as watching one hour-to-two-hour movie that you would have to pay to see again if you really like it.
Television shows can also afford to take the time to delve deeper into character development and plot structure. While movies only have a couple of hours to introduce all the characters as well as tell an entire story, TV shows can stretch over 50 hours if they need to, and in “Law and Order’s” case, eternity. The core problem is simply the fact that the number of quality movies has dropped, while juicy series such as “Better Call Saul”, “Mr. Robot”, “Game of Thrones”, “House of Cards” and “The Walking Dead” have been thriving by way of fantastic writers and creators, as well as a more willing and present audience.
Aside from the bi-annual Christopher Nolan mind-warping masterpiece, I cannot seem to get hyped over any other releases. When talking with my friends and family about entertainment, I have noticed everyone can find one show in common to converse about, but finding a movie has become increasingly difficult.
In a perfect world, both the cinema and television industries are at the top of their game and we can all enjoy the best they have to offer. Alas, as of now, TV reigns supreme.