How Netflix is changing the way people consume film

Image credit: Netflix

What does one not know about Netflix? That it is the most popular movie and TV streaming service of the moment? Everyone knows that. That it was founded in 1997 and used to be a DVD rental company? Well, I knew that (cough cough). In other words, Netflix provides TV shows and movies that you watch exclusively online and was launched with the aim of providing everybody with the possibility of watching a film or a series, wherever, whenever. Does it do that for you? It certainly does for me. Whether a way to procrastinate boring revision or to chill out with friends, Netflix is always there for me – thanks to my four-screen subscription, which enables me to watch it endlessly, without having to deal with the annoying ‘Too many people are using your account right now’ pop-up message if I happen to be watching at the exact same time as my sisters.

Lately, Netflix’s globalisation ideology has undergone controversy. The French National Cinema Federation (FNFC) which represents French cinema owners were upset that Netflix films running for a prize at the Cannes Film Festival would go straight to streaming before they even got to cinemas. The Cannes Film Festival said that it would change its rules to require all future competition films to commit to distribution in French cinemas before they became available on streaming platforms.

Is Netflix threatening a nearly two century-old tradition by delegitimising the big screen? By offering people the opportunity to pay a relatively reasonable fixed monthly fee in order to watch unlimited films and series at any time of day or night, anywhere – with the newest edition of being able to download films and watch them without a network connection, it seems now that spending between £7 and £9 (not counting the popcorn and the 3D glasses if you happen to have forgotten yours for the eleventh time in a row) to go to the cinema, is a waste of money. However, I feel like a trip to the cinema with friends or family is always an exciting adventure. I still remember being ridiculously thrilled by the idea of going to see the newest Harry Potter and more recently, being totally overwhelmed by Beauty and the Beast to the point of not even realising that a Disney film could last so long. My experience would certainly not have been the same if I had sat on my bed, switched my laptop on and logged in to Netflix – Beauty and the Beast is not on Netflix anyway so, there you go!

Not being able to find a film or series that you desperately want or need to watch or realising that it is available in another country but not in yours is probably one of the most frustrating things about Netflix – on top of the fact that some series are incomplete and that you have to wait ages for the next episode or season to be released on the platform (by then, you would’ve probably streamed the episodes online anyway so, what’s the point?). All in all, not only does Netflix not encourage you to go to the cinema but it also creates addiction in such a way that you end up streaming again and again – the faster, the cheaper, the better.

So, is Netflix a threat or do we have to accept that people decide to consume film in different ways? Should we be scared that Netflix might end up “killing” traditional cinemas? I spent all my childhood living in a very small sea-side town in South-West France. Walking from the beach in my swimming costume to the tiny, smelly, old-fashioned and badly air-conditioned local cinema is probably one of the most vibrant and authentic memories I have of a time when Netflix still used to rent DVDs out. There’s a part of me that wishes it had stayed that way.

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