Cinema or Streaming?

1365991613883_761Photo credits: Huang Ying

Going to a cinema to watch movies has always been a trend for me. Not only because I get to see the movie on big screens with awesome loud sound, but the joy of meeting my friends before the movie starts, grabbing popcorn and Coke, and getting to watch the movie in a comfy seat or a beanbag. My parents were also big fans in hitting cinema to watch movies. I still remember how my mom and dad used to go line up with their friends in queue to get a seat from the first show of every movie releases – and mom always sew a new dress for the show.

However, as time evolved with modern innovative technology and advanced lifestyle, people have slowly shifted their habit from watching movies in theatre to home. With big screen high definition TVs and surround sound of home theatre systems, anyone can get the same experience of a cinema or even better, just being at home. The easy accessibility to internet in every house today – such as instantly streaming or downloading a new movie – made home viewing experience far more better option for the viewers to choose watching movies in the comfort of your home.

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There are several factors for today’s viewers – mostly Gen Y and Z – to shift towards viewing movies at home than going to a theatre. And these factors certainly fit to the three human constraints of social planning identified by Hagerstrand (cited by Ellegård & Svedin 2012); Capacity (also capability), Coupling and Authority.

Capability or capacity comes when indicating the individual’s physical capacity to get to the cinemas. Like for me, I can buy a movie ticket at night for Rm 18, call up some of my friends and go grab popcorn and watch a movie back then. However, being occupied in college work today, and not earning anymore on my own to buy tickets and snacks makes me incapable and fit to this criteria. And this could be the case or similar, with many others. Moreover, the convenience of illegal downloading of movies and TV series on illegal sites like torrent, it is as easy as click of a button for viewers to get hold of movies and watch it at home without spending a penny. Who would want to pay when you can get it for free? Also, many do feel unworthy of going for cinema to watch every movie – movies like romance or comedy does not need a larger screen with high sound, rather prefer to watch on their laptops or tablets.

Coupling in regard to cinema is the ability to be in cinema right before the movie starts, and be able to sit there in silence for continuous two to three hours if they do not want a minute of the movie to be missed out. These time limits constrain the time a person leaves the home to go to the theatre – not to mention if the person lives far from the theatre and get caught in traffic jam, and also the time a person would want a break for toilet. Nevertheless, being in the comfort at home, viewers can easily start the movie anytime – not getting forced to watch 15 to 20 minutes of trailers before actual movie begins – and have the convenience to multitask and pause the movie for toilet breaks. Furthermore, home viewing becomes more of individual experience than public communal one in cinema, where we are surrounded with strangers. The distractions of kids’ crying or people talking, popped out heads of tall people blocking the view, ringing of phones and making noise with soda and straw simply doesn’t exist at home.

You don’t have that awkward person that laugh’s at every little thing that’s not funny.”

Authority with regard to cinema indicates the set of limits, rules and regulations for the movie viewers attending the theatre. Some movies are restricted for viewing below 18 years and cinema staffs check and reject young people before entering the theatre. Rules like ethically accepted dress codes, attendance procedures and prohibition of outside foods, are constraints that people consider to shift for home viewing. Home viewing does not place age blockade on people who are younger than age, it definitely doesn’t restrict the viewer to watch the movie wearing just pyjamas and munching their own snack packs.

MTE1ODA0OTY0MjY3MTMyNDI5Photo credits: Lara Naaman

With all these placed on board, the questions arises whether is it still worth going to cinema to watch movies? Will the future generations be completely shifted for online streaming? Will home viewing kill cinema industry in future?


Ellegård, K, & Svedin, U 2012, ‘Torsten Hägerstrand’s time-geography as the cradle of the activity approach in transport geography’, Journal of Transport Geography, vol. 23, no. Special Issue on Time Geography, pp. 17-25, viewed on 25 September 2015,


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