Will The Movie Experience Die In The On Demand World?

About 68 minutes into a 103 minute 2005 Pixar lecture from the Computer History Museum (found via UpcomingPixar), writer/director Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles) ranted passionately about how technology and convenience is ruining the theatrical experience:

"I hope that [the theatrical experience] doesn't go away. I think that in our quest for 24 hour accessibility of everything under the sun, we diminish the value of certain experiences. And I liked the fact that movies use to have lines. And that it use to be hard to get into a movie. And if you saw it in it's first week of release, you saw it on a giant screen or in ornate palace, and it was a show. Now we have made it so that on opening day you can see a film on a big screen, or on a crappy screen, or a screen that is a bootleg on your computer [inches] big. To me it's diminishing the show experience."

Bird is so right. It's an issue I'm very torn about because I absolutely love the idea of an all you can eat on demand world where anything and everything is available whenever wherever. I'm a tech fanatic, an early adopter with tons of gizmos and gadgets. But at the same time I wish we could keep the experiences I agree up with (not to sound old).

And while I might be too young to remember a day without multiplexes, I do remember when attending a first showing on the first night of release was a magical experience. I remember lining up for tickets to Episode 1, and the line went around the movie theater. It was a party, it was fun. I went to line-up for tickets for Episode 2 and the crowds disappeared. By the time Episode 3 was released, only 15 or 20 people were in line. You could claim that it was because people lost interest in the series after Phantom Menace, or that people were trying to relive the nostalgia of their youth, but truth is that most of my friends were reserving their tickets for Attack of the Clones, but they were reserving the tickets online. The party died, and so did that experience.

And it's not just relegated to the cinema. I remember when you could have a watercooler conversation about a television show. Even though we experienced these series by ourselves, in our own respective homes, we would be sharing the experience together. But now the watercooler discussions of shows like LOST are quickly becoming less possible because of the DVR. Timeshifting is yet another convenience which diminishes the experience. And someday soon most people will view new television episodes on demand or timeshifted, rather than live.

Sooner or later mainstream movies will be available day and date on some form of home video, and I'll be ask a group of my friends if they're going to the opening night of Transformers 3 at the AMC downtown, and they'll TXT me back that they're just going to watch it at home on their 100 inch OLED screen instead.

Discuss: Will the theatrical experience die in the new on demand world?