Why on-demand is the future of cinema

Sure enough, there's nothing better than seeing a big, crowd-pleasing film with a large audience that's just as enthusiastic as you are, but that isn't always the case, just as every film you watch is not an event film that demands the biggest screen possible.

Filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas recently predicted an 'implosion' of the film industry in which fewer movies are released in theatres, but have longer Broadway-style runs that last up to a year and carry a premium ticket price, while smaller films are released either on-demand or in limited runs with smaller ticket prices – Spielberg even mentioned that his award-winning film Lincoln came remarkably close to being released on HBO.

When you consider that quality films like Beasts of No Nation are now being delivered directly to homes on release, and long-form, movie-quality TV dramas like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Daredevil have changed people's perceptions of the kinds of stories that work well on a smaller screen, Spielberg and Lucas just might be onto something.

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Why On-Demand is the future of cinema

Alhough it wasn't created specifically for the streaming market, Netflix's purchase and release of Beasts of No Nation has kicked off a trend which has forced the on-demand practice out of infancy and into its adolescence.

Rival service Amazon Prime recently acquired Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn's next film, The Neon Demon, which will initially be released in theatres, closely followed by a streaming release on Amazon Prime Instant Video, as well as Spike Lee's latest joint, Chi-Raq, which will arrive on the SVOD service sometime in December.

Netflix already has several films in post-production and nearing release, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend, which is from the team responsible for the Netflix series Marco Polo, and the upcoming Adam Sandler western comedy The Ridiculous 6.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend will release simultaneously in theatres (including IMAX) and on Netflix, something that has angered the AMC, Regal and Cinemark theatre chains in the United States, with all three companies having already announced boycotts of the film.

Netflix has also dropped $60 million into its upcoming satirical war film, War Machine, which stars Brad Pitt and is directed by David Michôd of Animal Kingdom fame, and has also invested $50 million in the next film from Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho, Okja, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

Given the level of talent behind and in front of the cameras on each of these announced films (well, maybe excluding the Adam Sandler one), it's clear that on-demand is moving out of the D-grade ghetto and is concentrating on delivering pedigree entertainment that isn't reliant on spectacle.

Though I'll definitely continue to watch big-event films in the theatre for the foreseeable future, I'm also certain that I'll quickly get used to making my living room my preferred destination for just about everything else.

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.