“Cinema is gone,” Martin Scorsese, one of the most prolific film directors of all time, has said in an interview. “The cinema I grew up with and that I’m making, it’s gone.” Perhaps, he could be right: in 2019, movie theatre attendance decreased by 4%, compared to 2018 — there is an obvious trend of viewers preferring a stay-at-home experience, provided by Netflix or any other streaming service. He could be right about the physical concept of cinema.
However, this year’s Golden Globe winners have proved Scorsese otherwise. The triumphant win of 1917 and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood at this year’s Golden Globes have shown that cinema as a concept, is in fact, far from gone. Stealing the globe from Scorsese’s The Irishman, 1917 has been lauded for its masterful cinematography and a mesmerisingly horrifying portrayal of war. Cinema is flourishing — and is stronger than it ever was.
During the 2020 Golden Globes, films and tv shows produced by Netflix have bagged only two awards: one by Laura Dern for Best Supporting Actress in Marriage Story and Olivia Colman for The Crown. There is no doubt that the streaming giant has been giving countless voices an opportunity to be heard — even Scorsese, whose CGI anti-aging proposal was rejected by all film studios, has been taken under Netflix’s wing. And it is no surprise: after all, Scorsese could have been the winning card in Netflix’s hand to win at the Golden Globes and perhaps, at the Oscars.
2020 is not the first year when Netflix pushes for the major awards: last year’s Roma won Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Picture at the Academy Awards. With a largely positive criticism, Roma was praised for its emotional appeal and cinematic artistry — and Netflix is certainly a part of its success, being the production company. Since Golden Globes are considered to be the preview for Academic Awards, it is uncertain whether Netflix will perform at the Oscars as well as it did last year.
Nevertheless, are viewers really to blame for the decrease in movie theatre attendance? With the abundance of choice moviegoers are currently given, it is obvious that the average viewer will choose what they are most interested in — and what critics (whether from publications and news outlets, or even from YouTube) praise. In this way, flooded by a tsunami of negative reviews, Cats collapsed on its opening weekend. Similarly, Dark Phoenix, Gemini Man and Charlie’s Angels misfired at the box office.
Streaming services are also infiltrating movie lover’s field of view. From Netflix to Amazon Prime to Hulu, anyone can subscribe to a database filled with thousands of hours of watch time. Undoubtedly, streaming services have made films more accessible not only for the creators but also for its viewers. While it is hard to beat a theatre experience, more people can enjoy films — and now within the comfort of their own home. Scorsese praised this and yet, urged the viewers to watch The Irishman on the biggest screen possible at home.
With the rise of streaming, not is it only becoming easier to view and enjoy prominent works of cinema at home, but also providing fresh and unique creators a chance to revel in spotlight and appreciation — for breakout filmmakers, who need their work and potential to be seen by larger and more influential studios, awards at major festivals may not be priority. After all, even Tarantino’s first, Reservoir Dogs, only won an International Critics’ Award at Toronto International Festival and some other awards from less popular film festivals and was never nominated for a Golden Globe or an Academy Award.
Some say that movie theaters are on the decline; others argue that cinemas are irreplaceable. Despite this, it is certain that cinema and its artistry is far from gone. With movie giants such as The Irishman, Joker and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood dominating the screens, several independent films have also managed to impress viewers, such as The Lighthouse and Uncut Gems. In fact, a number of critics called 2019 “one of the best years for film”.
As franchise films have invaded the movie theatres, with countless reboots, remakes and sequels, it is only a matter of time until viewers will get tired of this lack of originality. Although Disney’s Toy Story 4, Frozen II, The Lion King and Avengers: Endgame broke attendance records, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opened to $177.4 million and then dropped to $72.4 million, which is one of the worst drops in box office records between the first and second weekend. While there is no doubt that franchise films will continue to remain popular in the future, the competition for the viewer’s attention may cause a decrease in box-office totals for every single one that comes out.
Certainly, cinema underwent a change — even when looked at over the course of the last decade; however, the true artistry that drives filmmakers to produce pictures that make viewers laugh, cry and sympathize with the characters is far from gone. What we call cinema today may be different from what Martin Scorsese called it, but this is the beauty of any art form: its ability to morph and evolve into something completely new overtime.
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