The media landscape of today is vastly different to what we knew 10 years ago. Cinema attendance ratings are the lowest they’ve been in 25 years, Blockbuster has closed its doors for the last time, and DVD sales are in ineluctable decline; so where are all the moviegoers?
The answer is the Internet, or, more exactly, in bed. With the astronomical rise in popularity of online movie rental sites like Netflix, the necessity to leave the hallowed comforts of the home has dwindled – no more queues, no more late fees on rented DVDs, no more sticky floors, just good honest duvet covers and a screen are all you need to experience cinema – and with the steady improvement of high quality budget sound systems and plasma screens, fidelity is not a worry. But is this a good thing? Are we moving the right way, or is cinema dying a slow death?
Since the rapid development of the mobile phone, ways of marketing to its consumers have been a hot topic for media moguls. It is conceivable that the new ways of taking in film or TV result in a larger captive audience for marketing companies, and perhaps even an increase in advertising in the home. But hasn’t this always been the case? Half-hour segments of commercial trailers before the main event at brand cinemas, ‘Coming Soon to DVD’ videos before even the main menu? Advertising is nothing new, and has always been the trade-off between company and audience. So what of tradition, prestige, the act of going to see a film?
The word ‘screenager’, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, first appeared in the San Francisco Examiner in 1994, referring to the youth of the time having grown up with the home computer, video games, commercial television. Screens have been a part of the public consciousness, part of the fabric of the home for over two decades now, whether old CRT monitors, GameBoy screens, the infamous Nokia brick, or the latest plasma screen. These screenagers, the ones of 1994, are all grown-up, they comprise the current generation of movers and shakers and they know it’s a huge market. The video game, the computer, the film at home are all standardised now, belong no longer to a margin of spotty teens with energy drink addictions. That stereotype belongs to the age of the messageboard, of tortoiseshell website backgrounds and Times New Roman. We are all screenage, so of course the media climate should follow suit. So get comfy!