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Is home streaming films the new normal cinema experience?

Life in this part of Australia, New South Wales, begins to return to some semblance of normal today. After months of lockdowns many residents will no longer be subjected to the restrictions they’ve become accustomed to recently. Cafes, bars, and cinemas are among a slew of businesses re-opening, which will be welcome news to many people.

While getting out to a cafe, and maybe a bar, is something I’ve been looking forward to, I’m not so sure about going back to the movies. And it’s not because of the possible risks of being seated in a confined space with several hundred people for two to three hours. If the past eighteen months has shown me anything, it is how convenient streaming films online is.

Home streaming films may not offer the big screen experience of a cinema, or the enjoyment of being out with other people, but it’s still going to be hard to walk away from. For one thing, you’re not bound to a schedule. If say you’re streaming the latest James Bond movie, the show starts exactly when it suits you, not someone else.

There’s also advantages I’d never thought of until we started streaming regularly. Unlimited pauses are one. Anything goes; there’s time to grab a snack, take a phone call, text someone, google a point of interest in the film that’s on, or tap in a few notes for the article I need to write for work tomorrow. And then there’s the in your own home comfort of the whole thing.

Imagine no inconsiderate fellow patrons, talking loudly, texting incessantly, scrolling their socials (with the screen set to maximum brightness of course), or making or taking phone calls mid-session without leaving the auditorium (I’ve seen it happen). And let’s not get started on noisy food wrappings, or people who don’t understand allocated seating.

Of course the comforts of our would-be home cinema causes me to feel some guilt. Staying home could have an impact on a cinema’s viability. Staff may have to be let go. Their bottom-line is still being affected even though I may be paying to watch films from said cinema’s stream service, but they’re missing out on my vital for them coffee and pop-corn purchases.

But who knows what might happen? In six months we may have traded the simple joys of watching movies at home for the big-screen, cinema auditorium extravaganza. Regardless, I think the post pandemic lockdown period will be pivotal for the cinema industry. And if the worst comes to the worst, it could be the home cinema will become a permanent feature after all.

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