Think TV is Better Than Films These Days? You Aren’t Alone

Actually, we’ve thought it always was. But we’re weird.

Polone: The Main Reason TV Is Now Better Than Movies by Gavin Polone

I recently stepped into an elevator where a woman was practically orgasmic recounting to her friends things Bryan Cranston’s character Walter White did and said during a recent episode of Breaking Bad. Later that same day, a guy next to whom I was seated at a poker table complimented me on a movie I produced. I asked him if he went to the movies often and he replied, “No, not as much as I used to.” I asked what he did now instead of going to the movies and he said, “I stay home with my girlfriend and watch Netflix.” When I asked him what he had been watching, he went through a short list of TV series — which included Breaking Bad.

Without doing a scientific survey of the entertainment predilections of the American public, I can still confidently say that there appears to be a preferential shift away from movies and toward television. I would bet that you have noticed that your friends are more excited for new episodes of a favorite show than they are for the release of a super-hyped studio tentpole movie. Sure, some of the reason for there being more good TV shows than movies is arithmetic: There are more networks producing series than ever, and also it is much more convenient to access those shows on your DVR or streaming service. But there’s more to it than just volume and convenience. The most significant reason TV is favored has to be the overall malaise that has taken hold of the movie audience, which is illustrated by the oft-heard phrase, “There is nothing out worth seeing.” Yes, there have been a few successful sequels this year likeThe Dark Knight Rises, and remakes like The Amazing Spider-Man, and sequel–remakes like Independence Day with Super Heroes a.k.a. The Avengers. But when was the last time you saw a non-animated studio film and thought, “That’s a classic,” something on the level of Goodfellas, Raiders of the Lost Ark, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, or Lawrence of Arabia? Of course there have been independent films that may have risen to that level. But when you’re dealing with a mass audience, it is the studio releases that reach the majority of moviegoers, and the studios don’t seem to be delivering the goods as they once had. This explains why in 2012 the number of theater admissions is going to hit a nineteen-year low, while the population during that period has increased from 258 million to 313 million. And I believe that a significant part of the blame for this downward trend can be found in how the studios have changed the process of deciding which movies they will make and distribute.

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