Monday, January 09, 2012

Entertainment comes from many activities

I came across an interesting post by Roger Ebert about why movie revenue is dropping. He raises important points about high ticket prices and the poor theater experience.  I agree with most of the post. Many years ago, I had written about the abysmal theater experience and it is nice to see that my concern is shared.

Movies are losing revenue because they are chasing ghosts. The days of mass theater watching is history. Even in India, people are comfortable renting or buying DVDs and watching the movie at home. The theater experience deserves much blame. Theaters function in a world of limited supply. Their glory days were when few movies were released and there was little alternate entertainment. Both assumptions are false today. Thanks to streaming video and increased access to foreign movies, I can watch Korean movies from 2011 if Hollywood produced poor movies. And I don't need to watch movies. I can play video games, watch short videos online, or spend my evening looking at cute kittens online.

Our definition of entertainment is changing. Movies are just a way of spending time having fun. We have many more ways of having fun. Traditional media likes their definition of "entertainment", which is "consuming content". This is a very narrow definition. It has never held true. Children's idea of enjoyment ranges from drawing to making a mess out of newspaper. Adults are similar.

Computers on the Internet are the ultimate tool. I write articles (like this one) and it entertains me. Others use Facebook or Google Plus to keep in touch with their friends and family. Still others contribute to Wikipedia or online forums. Each of these activities provides enjoyment for the person. Each of these are entertainment.

Some of the terminology from the movie industry indicates this bias. "Entertainment Online" and "Entertainment Weekly" are focused entirely on the movie and television industry. Entertainment on MSN is all about movie stars.

Even in the absence of online streaming videos and DVDs, the number of people watching movies would drop. There is a lot more stuff you can do on a computer. And sitting in an uncomfortable chair for ninety minutes staring at a screen is not always entertainment.