Digital Media VS. In-Person Entertainment– which is better?


Sitting on your couch, preparing the snacks, getting all the covers together, and turning on a film may seem like the perfect night in, to some, but is it the perfect way to do a movie premiere? As time goes by, digital media has blown up, with services such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+, etc. taking over the entertainment world. These services, especially HBO Max and Disney+, have been releasing movies straight to the home, skipping the theatre experience altogether. What does this mean for in-person entertainment? According to the Los Angeles Times, digital home entertainment spending totaled $39.3 billion in 2018, following closely behind the $41.8 billion that movies generated at the box office that same year. This is sure to make anyone in in-person entertainment nervous. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the domestic box-office revenue fell four percent year over year at the start of 2020. A local theatre owner in Kansas City holds optimism about the theatre experience. 

   “People look at streaming as the end of theatres but I see it as a way for the theatre to become even more important of an experience. The types of things we ingest at home and how we remember those films and tv series are vastly different than the memory of seeing something at a theatre. Think about the last movie you watched on Netflix and then think about the last film you saw in a theatre. How different the emotional memory can even be is irreplaceable. So, in a lot of ways streaming is teaching people that cinema is important and it is not the same as seeing a movie at home. This past Christmas, people watched Wonder Woman 1984 both at home and in theatres. I think for people who saw it in their homes, it was not as magical. It is much easier to criticize because you can sit on your phone during the film and read about the movie or tweet about it. And that is just not how anyone should be watching a film. The people who got to see it in theatre had a much more profound experience with the film, even if they ultimately did not enjoy the film,” Owner of Screenland Armour Theatre Adam Roberts,  said. 

   As irreplaceable as the movie experience may seem, do teenagers notice that? Teenagers used to make up a large number of who would be seen going to the movie theatre frequently, but as of June 2019, only 14 percent went to the movie theatre one or more times a month.

   “Personally, I like streaming services better because it is a lot easier and you can have it on the go via phone or tablet. With in-person entertainment, you have to go there and stay there,” junior Ethan Decker said. 

   Whether you are a diehard moviegoer or a Netflix night owl, both entertainment experiences hold benefits to each type of person. Both, reaching families across the United States. 

   “In other ways, I think that streaming services are nice. I think that for a night in or an at-home movie night they are nice to have and can be a really easy way to enjoy a movie with your family without having to leave the house. I just do not think that they could ever replace in-person entertainment,” freshman Alyson Klug said. 

   Replacing in-person entertainment with digital media is a topic that is becoming more prevalent, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic still surging through the United States along with other parts of the world, shutting down theaters, museums, concerts, etc. 

   “I am not sure that is anyone’s goal with streaming services, to make in-person entertainment obsolete. When you look back at the early 2000s with digital and piracy, the goal of consumers was not that they wanted to destroy musicians and the music industry as a whole but that they wanted a new way to be able to purchase and digest that content. So, things like iTunes were built and there were new ways for the average person to find and purchase music. And then a decade later and we got ‘unlimited’ music for ‘free’ with Spotify and Pandora. But they all help the industry grow and musicians pivoted to finding new ways of revenues offering limited editions of vinyl, backstage passes, etc. But the industry did not die with these things and neither will movies. Since the 1980s people have claimed the end of theatres and that started with the home video market and VHS and continued through rental stores, internet piracy, and eventually streaming. What you might see is a decline in cold, corporate movie-going experience but you will not see theatres dissolve. But streaming will not kill theatres and COVID may have saved them if they can get through to the end,” Roberts said. 

   Play and musical actors and directors may understand the importance of in-person entertainment more than most, being direct with the audience and being able to connect with them face-to-face. 

   “Going into these places, movie theaters, book stores, museums, musical theaters, etc., make the Humanities come to life and create a more real experience. The pandemic has highlighted the need for the Arts. Digital Media Services have realized this and truly capitalized on this.  I am hoping that people experiencing the Arts in this way will make them want to participate in face to face experiences once it is safe to do so.” theatre teacher Kimberly Lenger said. 

   As the debate continues, supporting in-person entertainment, especially local places that may be struggling to compete, on top of your favorite digital media can be as easy as a night out with your closest friends and family.

   “It is the same way you support anything else that is local, you decide to drive the few extra miles to support your local theatre. You go out of the way of convenience to support something you believe is fundamental to the community. There are only two truly local theatres in Kansas City and that is Screenland and Fine Arts. The types of films we offer and the experience we offer are personalized, caring, and for the pure love of cinema. Everything else, including B&B and AMC, are massive chain theatres that run their theatres like a chain box store. So, where you decide to see a film is massively important,” Roberts said. 

Q and A with Mrs. Fuller, theatre teacher at South Valley, about the theatre process this year:

Q: How is the auditions process different this year?

A: Well for the fall show, we auditioned over zoom. For the spring show we auditioned in person since it is a musical. 

Q: How does rehearsal work?

A: For the fall show, they broke the fourth wall so they didn’t have to wear masks because they were far enough away so they never faced each other so they could take their masks off. In the fall basically everything was over zoom but for the spring we were able to meet in person everyday. 

Q: How has rehearsal worked with the hybrid schedule?

A: One cool thing is the school district provides transportation to the kiddos who don’t have school that day to be able to come back to school for practice and rehearsals. Parents still have to take kids home. The district is providing snacks for kids everyday after school as well. 

Q: Were you able to perform the shows for an audience?

A: In the fall we did a “behind the scenes” so 2 parents per student could come watch. The fall show was meant to be watched over zoom. We recorded the show out of order starting with the larger scenes, so that when the students finished they could go home. We did that so we had smaller groups for longer periods of time to reduce mass exposure. For the spring musical we are hopeful that we will get to have an audience. 

Q: How did recording the fall show go?

A: The recording company had some technical difficulties so we had to rerecord everything again. Some of the kids had to play multiple rolls on the day of production due to covid and quarantines. I have been really impressed with the kids this year.