Over the past three years Netflix has made a barnstorming entry into the motion picture marketplace. Bringing us high quality and innovative pictures ranging from Roma to The Irishman, Marriage Story and The King. However, despite the quality of their homegrown films, many quickly fizzle in the court of public opinion and memory. While equally finding themselves hidden in the vast array of content available on the platform. And while a limited theatrical release enables a film to enter the award season race. Alongside festival premiere’s that help build public momentum. The Netflix model remains the fulfilment of a home experience, with films arriving and departing with little fanfare.
Is it therefore possible that the Netflix model in fact undermines the artistic integrity of a directors work? While also encouraging viewers to dip in and out of films designed to be watched within a cinematic arena?
Just as with the dawn of VHS, big screen televisions and Blu-ray, many felt the arrival of streaming would end the traditional cinema outing. And while it has had a large-scale impact on the distribution and theatrical release of films. It would be fair to say that the social experience of cinema remains reletively strong. But does the cinema experience lead to a more imprinted memory of the film being viewed? a memory that ensures a film lives on long after its theatrical release.
On Netflix, no matter how innovative and beautiful a film may be, it is in essence just another slice of entertainment in a supermarket of fun. Providing an instant escape from everyday life at the press of a button. A mere stop gap while you continue to look at your phone, cook an evening meal or even commute to and from work. And with this in mind, surely a passive home viewing experience only strips away the potential power of the film. Diluting both the artistic value and performances as the viewer takes breaks, checks their email or answers the phone. Ultimately creating a dip in, and dip out experience that is quickly forgotten once something new comes along.
If true, this may explain why so many Netflix films simply disappear from public consciousness soon after release. As the streaming world encourages a consume and forget relationship with media and film.
In contrast a trip to the cinema remains a commitment to the story you are about to watch. While equally allowing the outside world to fade into the distance as the projector glows in a dark room void of distraction. Encouraging the viewer to become lost in the narrative and performances on screen. While the brain consumes each scene without interruption or deviation. Therefore imprinting itself in both the conscious and the sub-conscious human mind. While the audience interaction surrounding the viewer only heightens this experience through shared jumps, tears or laughter.
Streaming services offer a wonderful diversity of film and TV. And there is no doubting the significance, innovation and quality they bring to their audience. But is it possible that by feeding our desire for instant entertainment, the magic and wonder of the motion picture is lost. Ultimately devaluing the experience of film in favour of simple convenience?
On that question the jury is still out. But if true, it may explain why so many high quality Netflix films simply vanish from public attention.