Cinema VS Streaming: Watching Habits

Source: Leo Hidalgo

For this research project, the research topic that I would like to propose is the study and comparison for both movie theatres and online streaming services viewing patterns. It has often been a debatable topic whether the cinema is really dying as we are motioning towards the modern age of technology. Previously, the biggest rivalry for movie films was television, and now the digital media. (Brett, 2010) Not neglecting the fact that the digital impact has vastly improved the development of cinematography and technical innovations for filming, but it also ironically affects cinema viewing experience among audiences.

Throughout the evolution of movie theatres, the biggest change can be observed would be the enhanced atmosphere and feeling when watching films in cinemas. Although in a public setting, cinema representation in today’s context has become more intimate, private and exclusive. Referring to the findings by Abdullah (2015), most movie goers were comprise of the lower income group as compared to the middle and upper income group. It depicted that cost was not the deterrent factor of a cinema-goer. (Abdullah, 2015) Abdullah (2015) asserted that “film-viewing is still a widely acceptable leisurely activity”, however some of the respondents rather watch films on other platforms rather in a cinema. The reasons namely were able to be comfortable at his/her own space, driving to the cinema can be vexing and taking care of their off-springs can be easier. (Abdullah, 2015)

Source: Campus Party Brasil

Thus, watching movies online or downloading shows from the net has become an appealing option without the worry of spending much effort and money. Streaming online services such as Netflix, iFlix, Amazon Instant and YouTube offer wide varieties of films and shows based on personal interest at the most affordable rate or even for free. In addition, people can have personal space when streaming anytime and anywhere as they wish. It is considered these channels have covered almost every aspect favourable for audiences from price, technology, convenience and selection. (Edwards, 2015)

Referring to White (2015), “Nielsen reports that during the first three quarters of 2014, Americans aged 12 to 24 saw 15% fewer films in theatres compared to the same period in 2013. In 2013, the number of frequent moviegoers between the ages of 18 to 24 fell by 17% according to the Motion Picture Association of America.” Edwards (2015) also elaborated that “2014 was also the first year no film broke the £40m mark since 1998.” Streaming services have become the more prevailing choice as “three million households subscribed to Netflix in 2014 in the UK, twice as many as a year ago.” (Edwards, 2015)

Besides, the usage of smartphones particularly among young consumers is one of the factors for the downturn in cinemas. (White, 2015) As Kuittinen (2015) stated, “the worst fear of Hollywood is that the youth demographic is simply drifting away from old entertainment consumption patterns, seduced by video streaming on a variety of platforms and particularly the explosion of content on smartphones.” However, Kuittinen (2015) also argued that new franchises such as Guardians of the Galaxy and LEGO may be a turning point for the movie industry. The Marvel movies (The Avengers) especially made large revenues at the box office, as “Hollywood has recently been buoyed by a series of young adult and superhero franchises that have bloomed into massive money spinners”. (Kuittinen, 2015)

In addition to this research topic, there is another interesting point of view that is against to this new form of watching pattern through these small screens. Directors like Spike Lee and David Lynch insisted that their styles of film-making could be translated in a bad taste if watched through smartphones or tablets. (Wagner, 2015) Additionally, films watched on multiple mediums are also likely to convey different meanings of messages. (Wagner, 2015) As Wagner (2015) stated, “going to the multiplex is so different from the experience of watching on a smaller screen, that at some point we can probably expect a splintering of the industry, where films are made either for the cinema or for other mediums.”


The theoretical framework that will be useful for this research topic would be the triangulation method. The methods applied namely are focus group, questionnaire and ethnography. This combination of framework will present both qualitative and quantitative values which are required for undertaking the emerging issues from this topic. Firstly, focus group generates qualitative values as it is usually done within a group of few people in a face-to-face session. This provides a better understanding and difference of interest among the participants. Secondly, questionnaire is for the general purpose to refine, in which questions given for candidates to respond and recall immediately. This is typically done in large quantity of number. Lastly, ethnography or textual analysis requires a period of time as it is executed thorough observations, in covering the aspects namely the study of human behaviours and watching habits when watching in the cinema and streaming online.












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