Netflix vs Cinema : who’s gonna win ?

Capucine Lalliard
Digital Society
Published in
6 min readMar 18, 2021


Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney +… The days are long gone when we had to go to the cinema to see a film or buy it on DVD. Nowadays, thanks to the internet and the development of streaming services we have access to a large choice of TV shows, films and documentary films directly from our living room.

However, what is the future of cinema in all this ? With the easy access to streaming services without having to leave our homes and the current global pandemic, we might wonder how cinemas can cope?

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Since the 1990s we can see that movie theaters are more and more popular in particuar thanks to the release of blockbusters and new technologies such as special effects. However, in the 2000s, a new phenomenon arrived with the development of internet: streaming. Indeed, with the development of internet, it become easier to have access to films for free through streaming. Streaming services became quickly an enemy of the cinema and so movie theaters had to find a way to renew themselves to face the competition and how streaming services managed to surpass the big screen.

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In less than ten years, streaming services have grown dramatically becoming a real threat to the cinema. Take the example of the giant Netflix, with an average price of £7.30 a month in the UK for thousands of films, TV shows or documentaries, it becomes more interesting for people to subscribe to Netflix than going to the cinema each weeks or months.

Moreover, with its Netflix Originals, the streaming services fueled the competition with movie theaters by producing its own film such as Bird Box with Sandra Bullock which became famous when it was released.

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In addition to streaming website, in 2020, cinemas faced a new challenge, the Covid-19 pandemic. In effect, on March 2020, in the face of rising cases and the spread of the virus, the English government had to close down public places. Obviously the impact on movie theaters has been huge, the ticket sales dropped by 93% as well as the revenue which dropped by 91%. This crisis is reflected in the figures, in 2020, the annual revenue came to £296,716,078 or 76% compared to 2019 and, above all, it is the first year since 2011 that the UK box office has not exceeded one billion.

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Stay at Home, this is what we have been hearing for over a year now. In fact, in 2020, because of the several lockdown, the average amount of time UK population spent watching audiovisual content increase of more than an hour and a half than the average time in 2019. One of the main beneficiaries of this crisis has been Netflix, actually, in 2020, the number of users of Netflix reached more than 200 millions users in the world. very easy to access at a reasonable price considering the varied catalogue offered with a personalized selection that makes the user want to watch more and more shows.

Photo taken from About Manchester

In order to stay ahead of the proliferation of streaming services, movie theaters had to find ways to reinvent the cinema experience in order to attract more and more of the public. In the 2010s, after the public’s rejection of 3D cinema, which failed to live up to expectations. Another type of cinema had been developing, the 4DX. Allowing to stimulate the 5 senses thanks to multiple effects it would allow a better immersion in the film. It would also, just as 3D, attract viewers by offering them the possibility of a new experience that they could not get by watching a film on streaming.

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With the pandemic the reopening of the cinemas might be complicated because of the barrier and social distancing measures. This is why, last summer, 40 drive-in theaters have been created throughout the UK. Indeed drive-in theaters are the best solution during the pandemic, households are isolated from others in cars, the transmission of the virus is therefore less important, moreover, drive-in attracted people. A must in cinema culture, their vintage aspect is very attractive and, as with 3D and 4DX, provides a new experience and get a taste of freedom after months of lockdown.

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It’s not over for the cinemas, indeed, many blockbusters have their release date shifted from month to month over the past year. For example Black Widow is scheduled for release in May 2021 and which was delayed twice from an original date in May 2020 or Raya and the Last Dragon which is delayed in some countrieson the 14 April in France for example- both to be shown in cinemas. That’s really interesting because it’s Disney films and so Disney could stream them on Disney + like Mulan or Soul, both released in December on the platform. This raises the question of whether streaming services can really replace the cinema ?

Moreover, we saw that before 2020, the number of tickets sales remained stable -cinema was still popular- and so we might think that people would like to return to the cinema after more than a year of closure. As people are missing to go out or see their friends, some of them are missing going to the cinemas as reported by The Guardian. Cinema allows us to escape from reality and I think that’s what people will be looking for to get back to their life before covid. That is why we may think that people will return to cinema and so bring them back to life.

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We may conclude that the cinema is not dead, indeed, streaming sites are gradually gaining ground but cinema is embedded in our culture. Besides, streaming sites will never be able to offer the same experience as the cinemas as Stever Spieberg said “there’s nothing like going to a big dark theatre with people you’ve never met before and having the experience wash over you. However, the threat of streaming looms over the big screen and that is why it is important to reinvent itself. The worldwide success in 2019 of Avengers : Endgame shows that despite everything the cinema still has a long life ahead of it.