It’s a great time to be an avid fan of television. We live in a golden age of TV, where you can throw a stone and hit at least three quality shows. With networks like HBO, AMC and the BBC offering up programs that garner both critical and popular acclaim, there certainly is no shortage of shows to watch.
While TV has been enjoying a new high, cinema has taken a hit this year. Summer box office returns were down 14.6% from last year, according to Forbes. Movies have typically held a grip on entertainment thanks to larger budgets and a richer selection of talent to draw from; however, this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones and AMC’s The Walking Dead are more cinematic than some of the dreck that was released this past summer. (I’m looking at you, Legend of Hercules.) And Game of Thrones has a larger budget than many movies, costing roughly six million dollars per episode. What’s to credit for this paradigm shift?
Simply put, television shows provide a better medium for creating characters. A film has to introduce characters, create arcs and conclude these arcs in the span of two hours (unless you’re Peter Jackson, in which case this can be accomplished in a minimum of nine hours and three movies). A television show has the luxury of doing this over multiple episodes or seasons. Take a show like Sherlock, or Supernatural. Their fervent following came about as a result of the fans’ obsession with the characters rather than the story. The longer story lines provide writers with more time and opportunities to create richer, more layered characters.
Even cinematic talent is starting to realize this fact. True Detective, HBO’s hit cop drama starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, who were both better known for their roles in movies prior to True Detective. David Fincher, director of such movies as Se7en, Fight Club, or, more recently, The Social Network and Gone Girl, has committed all of 2015 to filming Utopia, a reboot of an old British TV show. Kevin Spacey has completely redefined his career with his role as the villainous Francis Underwood on Netflix’s House of Cards.
But all is not lost for Hollywood. Movies still have the advantage of providing a greater spectacle due to better access to visual effects, along with far larger budgets, while television will always be inherently limited. Also, in the past, Hollywood has always shown an ability to change to what the customer desires most. For reassurance, look to Spielberg’s Jaws ushering in the era of the blockbuster, or X-Men jump-starting the superhero movie craze. Movies will adjust and survive, because they always have. It’s just going to be harder than ever to do so.
Home entertainment industries like Netflix will hurt movie theaters, illegal streaming websites will continue to be thorns in the sides of studios, but movies, at their core, will always be in demand. Studio executives will have to figure out ways to improve their craft. For now, television has seemingly supplanted film as the best form of entertainment, but there’s no reason why we can’t enjoy both. As long as they keep competing with each other, audiences will be able to enjoy a future of quality entertainment both on the silver screen and in the comfort of their own home.