And by less I mean quantity not quality. Quality films are still consistently being created by some of the medium’s greatest auteurs. The quantity is down though. Quantity of great films, quantity is low for the budget of great films, and attendance is low.
We have our “event” films or as Scorsese and Coppola like to call them “theme park rides” and that’s fine. These films push the limitations of technical achievement for a unique experience that utilizes the bombastic capabilities of modern sound and modern screen. They make bank. Film has never been more profitable simply because of these movies.
In the early 2000s/late 90s studios created branches of their companies that sought out independent film. They’d finance obscure projects by filmmakers with credibility, but mostly they bought films at festivals and produced them. Often they’d hype up their quality (reviews, awards campaigns, etc.)
That’s still happening and independent films are cinema. Spotlight, Boyhood, Birdman, Parasite, The Lighthouse so many unique films that utilize ambitious storytelling techniques come out every year. One of the biggest ones of this year will undoubtedly be The Irishman.
Is cinema dying?
No. It’s changing.
Restrictive attention-spans have been an apparent side effect of art in the era of technical advancement. We loved books! Then movies came out, who has the time to read? Shows are out, who has the time for movies?
I’d say we entered that state in the mid 2000s, early 2010s. Movies became more of a burden. We’d often find ourselves marathoning several episodes of a sitcom, yet reluctant to start a 2 hour film.
We’re entering a new era now has our attention spans tighten even further. Quick Youtube clips, Tik Toks, and the dopamine from social media are making us more reluctant to start new television shows – who has time for that?
The industry is slowly catching up, now producing more content than ever before, but it’s a tad too late. Game of Thrones was likely the last event show we all watched together. Now there’s so many options that it has become more rare to find the people watching the same content as you.
What about cinema?
The state of cinema is niche. Cinema will never die, not at least in several lifetimes. Reading books never died, and it’s a long way off from expiration. Are we sculpting like we did during the Renaissance? Not quite, but there are still excellent sculptors producing some amazing modern art.
One fascinating thing about our culture is that we crave new unique experiences constantly. We evolve and our tastes in artistic mediums does too. We’re almost to the point where it’s safe to safe cinema is a niche culture filled with passionate people who swear by it, who are consistently inspired and moved by film. Those who grew up with it, who relentlessly watched it.
10/20 years from now – Episodic television will become a niche art as well. Many will be nostalgic about growing up in the 90s/00s and being glued to the television.