YOUR VOICES: On Streaming Versus the Big Screen


Your Voices is a simple concept created to encourage conversation and opinions between movie lovers. It’s been a while but it works like this: I throw out a certain topic. After that I’ll make my case or share my opinions. Then it’s time for Your Voices. Head to the comments section and let me and fellow moviegoers know your thoughts on the topic for that day!

One thing the current coronavirus pandemic has shown us is that streaming is a viable option for movie fans when it comes to seeing new films. But what does that mean for movie houses and multiplexes everywhere? With the recent news that AMC theaters may not survive the pandemic-related shutdown, questions naturally arise about the future of watching movies. What does it mean for the movie theater experience? Is streaming an acceptable substitute? Is there a scenario where both can equally co-exist?

Without question I have streamed more new releases recently than I ever have before. Some have been through screeners, but many have been through Vudu, Amazon Prime, etc. The biggest plus to streaming is the instant accessibility and the ability to watch instantly on a wide variety of devices. There is a convenience factor to streaming that is undeniably attractive.


But what about movie theaters? Personally I love the seeing movies on the big screen with sharp digital projection and high quality sound. And there is something about joining a group of strangers and watching a movie together (except when they’re constantly chattering or bringing their infant child). And some movies are unequivocally better on a big screen. They are conceived for it, filmed for it, edited for it. In other words they are made for it.

So where do I land? Shamefully on the fence. I want both to be viable options. But I’m not sure if that is realistic. And if so, there are certain to be some business casualties.

But enough of me, now it’s time for Your Voices. Please hit the comments section to share your thoughts.

YOUR VOICES – What are your feelings about the complex issue of streaming versus the big screen?

41 thoughts on “YOUR VOICES: On Streaming Versus the Big Screen

    • I sure did. It was an interesting move but also a desperate one. I think they saw the potential trouble it would cause theaters, especially there’s which was feeling financial pressure before COVID-19. I understand their move even though it’s a tricky one to make. I’ve been really intrigued to see how it would play out once theaters reopened. Who would budge first?

  1. Streaming gives us access to movies that would not have played in theaters, and original programming that would not exist if not for those services. So good for them.

    That said, there is no substitute for the movie theater experience. I’m not just referring to the size of the screen or the quality of the picture or the dynamics of the sound, which are all at the moment still best at a theater. I am talking about the experience.

    Going out to see a movie is an active choice rather than a passive one. It requires your full devotion to the activity. You plan on when you must arrive, you choose where you are going to sit, you select snacks you prefer or choose to forgo popcorn, which requires you to resist the siren call of that unique aroma. Most of the time we choose companions to join us for a theatrical experience. We have to ask ourselves, who do we want to share this memory with? Are we emotionally connected to each other by the choice of the film? How will our reactions effect our relationship one way or another?

    Sitting in a theater requires a discipline and conviction for the movie. We have to refrain from getting up to use the toilet, or get our snacks replenished. Late arrivals are an unwelcome distraction from the trance we are putting ourselves into for two or so hours. [I have decided I dislike the dine in theater experience intensely].

    Movie going is a social activity that takes us out of the house, out of the routine and makes the experience unique. Trailers make suggestions whereas streaming services try to hook us into the next film by starting it automatically. That is the real reason It can be called streaming, it tries to avoid the punctuation mark that the end of a movie demands for our contemplation.

    Streaming provides access and convenience, move theaters provide a social activity and a shared experience that envelops us in a way that Television steaming just can’t.

    • Terrific points throughout. I especially like one of the first things you said – “Streaming gives us access to movies that would not have played in theaters.” As someone who lives in a small market this is especially true. There have been soooo many independent and foreign movies that never came to my area. I had to wait for their eventually home release to see them. Streaming has offered a solution. Not all indie distributors take advantage of it, but it is a huge plus.

      That sad, I couldn’t agree more about the cinema experience. It is indeed everything you said and those things can’t be replicated by holding a tablet.

  2. We rarely go to the cinema, though did for Dunkirk and 1917. I am not keen on the experience. In our local cinema complex (about 10 screens altogether) although they are upgrading some of the seats for the main screen, the surrounding screen rooms have really uncomfortable seats so after a 2 hour movie my back is killing me and I’m miserable because my butt has been sore from 1/2 hr into it. At home we use Amazon Prime and Netflix, in a dedicated movie room, have a good quality big TV that does 4K and 11 speakers so we can have Dolby atmos and surround sound, a comfy sofa and can use the PAUSE button for when a visit to the loo is needed or to top up the wine glass. I would think that’s also more cost effective than going to the cinema, although if I added Disney+ and the others that may change things, (I won’t, 2 is enough!) I have no problem with not being part of a munching, phone wafting, chattering herd, so my vote is for the streamers! 🙂

    • I think you are a part of a growing group of movie watchers. I do like the conscience and the cost is certainly a factor. I guess I’m more of a fence-straddler. I want both. As for the big screen and uncomfortable seating, I can 100% see your point. If you’re not comfy it can be a long 2 hours. At the same time I think of a movie like Dunkirk. It’s great wherever you watch it. But for me there is no forgetting my experience of seeing it on the big screen. It left such an impression.

  3. Pertinent question, Keith. I’m spoiled, so I like both. Streaming is great for the rare films that aren’t commerical enough to make it to my rural theater. Also, like Fraggle, it’s great to pause and come back to it in the privacy of one’s home. I enjoy beer and wine, so I don’t need to worry about driving, traffic, obnoxious moviegoers, etc. HOWEVER, some films need to be seen on the big screen. For my family, it is an event. It is an experience. It has created great memories and we all love going to a movie house (in our area, the seats are fine) because it’s a cheap activity compared to a lot of other family activities. I love the experience of the sound and big screen. I hope the two formats co-exist, and I suspect the number of chains will decrease.
    I remember as a kid when everyone went to the drive in theater. Then they became obsolete. Wouldn’t you know, they are coming back?

    • I’m with you. Co-existence is the perfect answer. It’ll be interesting to watch going forward. I tend to think streaming has made some major inroads into the new release market. Now how far will they go with it? I will still go to the theater once they open up. But streaming offers indies a great opportunity to get out in the public space.

      • I fear we will lose our “humaness” if we don’t socialize and stay hidden in our private spaces. I see it at the high school level already. It’s growing more difficult for teens to communicate vocally.

      • YES!!!!!!!! I think you’re tapping into a really big problem. I think you’re seeing it to some degree with the current state of things in America. Communication has become increasing difficult in large part because we tend to do so through a screen rather than together.

      • After twenty years, it scares me how people retreat inside their heads (phones & ear buds) to avoid talking. I think about the movie “Ready, Player One” and absolutely that will come true within my life time.

  4. A very good question Keith. I’m not opposed to streaming and recognize its benefits for those who don’t have close proximity to movie theaters, revival houses, or film festivals. One major plus is that streaming services can offer rare, hard-to-find movies online (for example, after years of waiting for a region 1 dvd, I managed to see Celine and Julie Go Boating on the Criterion Channel). Yet theatrical exhibition is always the best way to see movies in my book.

    Regarding AMC’s issues, my thoughts are a bit more conflicted. Admittedly I have quite a bit of dislike of how AMC (and most other big chains) run theirs franchises, particularly on how they push smaller, independent theaters more likely to run indie or arthouse fare out of business or how many of their digital projections have subpar lighting. But I also recognize that even with AMC theater profits tend to be razor thin, and I empathize with all of their workers losing their jobs. And even a lot of arthouse and independent theaters are not invulnerable. A few months ago I went to revival screenings of Night of the Hunter and Bad Lieutenant where the audiences started hooting and hollering at every scene. A few of my friends stopped going to theaters because of this reason.

    Despite the current financial woes of most movie theaters currently, I am certain once the pandemic subsides theaters will reopen (for the major studios, there’s much more money to be made when charging their movies $15 a ticket rather than putting them on streaming or VOD). The best thing to do right now is try to support local movie theaters and their employees right now if you’re able to, and hopefully they’ll still be around.

    • Great thoughts. I know what you mean regarding AMC. I had a good conversation with a manager of a Cinemark multiplex. He spoke about having 10 screens dedicated to Avengers and the remaining 6 for all the other recent/new releases. He said it all comes down to money needed to stay open. He spoke of the constant losses big chains are taking and that big franchises are all thats keeping some of them afloat. It’s how many moviegoers are conditioned to watch films. At the same time, how do you get them out of that ‘big movie only’ mindset if you’re only showing them big movies? Complex indeed.

      I also think theaters will reopen because (as you said) there is more money to make on tickets than streams. At least you would think so. Then again, what percentage of a rental goes to the studios compared to the percentage of a ticket? It would be fascinating to see those numbers.

      • Good point. I recall reading a few years ago Disney’s terms for The Last Jedi required them to have 65% of the profits and access to the theaters’ biggest screen for several weeks, and it’s almost certain that since then they and most other major studios have created more onerous terms for theaters to see who could control the most screens at an individual multiplex. I’m not against people going to see the newest Star Wars or Marvel movies, but the way how many of these major distributors treat their exhibitors is just wrong and unfair for many moviegoers.

  5. Whatever happens with this whole COVID-19 thing, I really do hope it ultimately leads to theaters opening up again sometime soon. Admittedly, not every single movie is worth me watching on the big screen (particularly rom-coms, which I mostly tend to avoid anyway), but seeing “Parasite” at a local cinema with my dad was a transformative experience I’ll never, ever forget. What do you think?

    • I do too. And I was able to see Parasite on the big screen as well and it was terrific. I think they’ll open up (and hopefully in time for TENET), but I bet streaming has opened itself up to a lot of new people.

  6. Great topic choice Keith! I was curious about your feelings on this and it seems we’re in the same boat. I wish the two could peacefully co-exist, but more and more people seem to prefer the movie-watching experience at home.

    I think back on some of my favorite movies from the last few years and I cannot imagine seeing them on the small screen and enjoying them the same amount. It’s for this very reason that I haven’t re-watched things at home that I LOVED like “Searching”, “Arrival”, and even “Parasite”. I’m worried they won’t hold up on the small screen. As if I’ll press “play” and they suddenly aren’t as great as I thought they were when I saw them larger than life with surround sound. Perhaps that’s irrational but it’s the truth.

    I will definitely return to theaters when they re-open, but I can’t say the same for many of my friends and family. Convenience and let’s not forget affordability is beating out the theater experience. I know families of four, five, six people who have been saving a considerable amount of money by watching new releases at home. It’s a tricky situation.

    • I know what you mean. I know people who essentially said if offered the choice of going to the theater or watching at home they would stay home. They point to what you mention – cost and convenience. I respect their feelings on it and it’s hard to argue. But I just can’t imagine missing movies like TENET, WONDER WOMAN, DUNE, etc. on the big screen. One film that instantly comes to mind is MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. It’s still great at home but nothing like when I saw it at the theater.

  7. We’ve had access to home entertainment for a looooooong time, and cinemas haven’t disappeared. Heck, people have been making that prediction since TV was invented. I’ve been hearing this discussion more sine March due to COVID-19. Honestly, if it took a global pandemic to push people to choose streaming services over cinemas, it must mean that a significant portion of the world population still like the latter a lot.

    • Actually we haven’t had access to new big studio releases at home. You could wait several months for their eventually home release, but if you wanted to see a studio picture when first released it was big screen or nothing. Now we are seeing streaming tap into that and offering alternatives. But how far will they go? It’ll be interesting.

      • I don’t think the amount of people who feel the urge to see a certain movie A.S.A.P. (even to the point of paying a more expensive ticket) is the majority. I can understand the argument that more and more studio productions will be released directly on VOD/streaming, but that will depend on each case. “The TROLLS sequel? Sure, why not? But TENET, F&F 9, MULAN and the superhero movies? No way. We have to modify things to make sure they get the release that was intended.”

        There are many people who understand the importance of the cinema experience to the point where they re-watch a movie on the big screen, no matter the price. I remember BLACK PANTHER was still performing well when INFINITY WAR came out, even though it was already available to rent/download. And a lot of classics eventually get a re-release and become box office hits once again.

      • I think it will (and in some ways already has) shifted to that. People seeing the big movies on the big screen but content to watch everything else on their devices.

  8. For the longest time, I’ve always felt that movies should be shown on the big screen but given the current circumstances. I think streaming is the way to go but once movies theaters are opened again. I think streaming should be an option for smaller movies while multiplexes can show the big movies. Honestly, I want both streaming and the theatrical experience as the latter is something I’m fond of while if there’s something that my mom and I can see and it’s not anywhere nearby but on Netflix or Disney+, I’ll do that too.

    I know Christopher Nolan wants to have Tenet shown in theaters in July but now I can’t see that happening as it’s now unlikely that I’ll go see it in the theaters. What if AMC doesn’t show the film because it goes out of business? I’m not going to drive 20-30 minutes to see it and maybe risk myself of being exposed to COVID. I’d rather wait till a vaccine is available and this pandemic will end.

    • It’s an unprecedented time for sure and there are soooo much uncertainty. I too shared the feeling that the big screen was best and still feel that way about many films. But you’re right, streaming isn’t great for smaller movies that get squeezed out of multiplexes and rarely make it to small markets. It’s a legitimate avenue for indie studios to get their movies to audiences.

  9. Each has their place for me. There are pros and cons for each, which you do a good job of covering. We need to have theaters as a leisure activity away from home, and unless you are wealthy enough to have a home theater with a screen big enough to accommodate the “big” movies, (e.g. Pacific Rim, most space movies, westerns, etc) there has to be a place for them to be seen. At home streaming is perfect for the other ones — unless, like me, who lives in the sticks and has satellite internet that is severely limited in databytes. Thankfully the satellite service gives “bonus bytes” between 2am – 8 am. This also means I end up staying up way too late at night to take advantage of them. I think the new mega movies should be seen at the theater, unless the streaming services are able to compensate all of the actors, production crew, etc. for the $$ they can make at the theater. That said, theaters need to stop gouging their audience. I understand they need to keep their heads above water, but jacking up the price of concessions is uncalled-for!

    • You make so many good points showing that there are so many variables to the discussion. Things like living far from a theater (which I do myself), data caps for satellite internet and other ISPs, etc. We are in a space right now where neither is ideal (pros and cons indeed). Hopefully they can both co-exist.

      • I do too. My favorite theaters are the old ones that have been restored. We have one in our town, and Michael Moore led the charge for one in Traverse City (where the Traverse City Film Festival has been happening for a few years.) Ann Arbor has a nice one also. These beauties need to keep on keepin on.

  10. I used to love going to movie theatres and I went a lot but now that I have a small child, even pre-Covid I was seeing maybe three movies in an actual theatre each year that were my choice. And maybe 2 or 3 that were his (I don’t want to talk about the Paw Patrol movie). Streaming is a much more appealing option right now,

  11. On the one hand, streaming is very convenient, and I do enjoy the selection of movies at my fingertips.
    On the other hand, I really enjoy the experience of watching a movie on the big screen in a cinema, and there are some movies which are definitely more suited to the big screen than the small screen.
    So, I’m like you: I want both.

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