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Movies to TV: What caused the shift?

Whether it’s True Detective, Fargo, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Stranger Things, etc. there has been a strong shift of interest from movies to TV. TV shows now have high production levels that mimic large-scale movies in both aesthetics and tone. TV is perhaps taken more seriously now than ever before. Does this have to do with ease of access? With services such as Netflix, viewers can binge-watch entire seasons if they want to. There is also the bankable element of episodic teasing out of narrative compared to the contained narratives of movies. Are TV shows taking more risks? Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things cast mostly unfamiliar faces yet Netflix is also responsible for reboots of familiar shows as with Fuller House and the upcoming Gilmore Girls. Even actors have shown greater interest in moving to TV, which was once seen as lesser than being a film star. Or is something else at work here? Can films make a comeback from this and how?

  • Good topic! In terms of what caused the shift it seems like part of it is economics. Tentpole movies these days are supposed to have boxoffice appeal across the world—which is one of the main reasons most of them have low-IQ CGI action sequences that seem almost endless. TV shows, in contrast, can appeal to niche audiences and go for awards, which means prestige television tends to be more character-driven and thought-provoking. Since economics is driving this, at least to some degree, my guess is that it can't be reversed. – Ben Hufbauer 5 years ago
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  • You're right! I don't know how I forgot to mention that aspect of it. Yes, movies nowadays are more keen to appeal to a global audience (especially China at the moment). That's also why big budget, CGI action movies such as those with universally recognizable superheroes became very popular. With exciting action sequences, as you mention, it also minimizes any problems in terms of language/cultural barriers. Thank you for the note! – aprosaicpintofpisces 5 years ago
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  • I think it is a mixture of things that has resulted in a decline in movie attendance and the rise in television viewers. 1. Ticket prices. People turn away from cinemas because of the cost of not only admission but concession items. Also, perhaps people do not find it as necessary as they once did to rush to the cinema to watch a new movie. 2. The accessibility to premiere television programming from HBO and others. Whether it is through streaming providers or through pirating, perhaps people enjoy the comfort of their own home when watching movies or television. 3. The most interesting analysis could be that the mini-series format that alot of television shows incorporate now is indeed a better way to tell a narrative than to squish the story into a 2 hour time limit. – Jeffrey Cook 5 years ago
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  • The above commenters pretty much covered why there's been a shift to tv shows. I just wanted to add that tv shows give directors more time to cover stories, and they can flesh out their plots too since movies have a limited time frame. – seouljustice 5 years ago
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  • I think its people's hunger for character development and relatability. We are living in difficult times and its hard to share or talk about experiences and having someone understand us. That's what TV is for. We like to feel like we can relate to characters, and we like to see their stories unfold and see them grow for better or for worse, while learning from them at the same time. It is a new form of growth for these modern times, but society hasn't fully grasped that concept. – jcastro4 5 years ago
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  • I've read that some actors prefer to work on TV series because it allows them to develop more their characters. And now that we have shows like Game of Thrones, House of Cards, etc. that are like movies, and have attached directors like David Fincher in House of Cards, and the recently announced TV series that Alejandro G. Iñarritu will be making with Emmanuel Lubezki. The line that differentiates TV from Film production has become harder to draw. With the big studios producing just sequels to superhero movies, TV has become the place to find original content and allows filmmakers to experiment with pilots before investing millions of dollars. – arturoandre 5 years ago
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  • Great observations. I have also noticed that although people are still going out to the theaters and appreciating movies, TV seems to be the go to for a casual evening at home. I think it's because now television is broaching more adult topics, like you said. In the past TV was the one place where things were censored, or created with family friendly intentions. Nowadays because of the new technique of showcasing intense and emotional moments, people find tv just as riveting as a major motion picture. Orange is the New Black is a great example of this. The subject of the show itself, a women's prison, is relatively controversial to start and the creators even took it to the next level by adding powerful character dynamics that resemble real life. Hollywood could actually learn a thing or two from the emotional resonance new television enraptures the world with. The Walking Dead is about zombies but it's easily one of the most moving shows of the last decade. At least, the first four seasons were. Movies are great because they have an entire storyline in only one to three hours. Maybe because the shows have more airtime they can explore more in depth topics. This may also affect why people have become more interested. Because the good shows have more runtime, thus the viewer can get more comfortable in their experience and enjoy having a lot of quality television to watch. Sometimes we even 'binge watch' tv for hours, even an entire day, because the quality of the show is so good. There are very few movies that have this effect; that they are worthy of wasting an entire day watching them. Lord of the Rings is binge watchable. However, the quote really usually only refers to the nonstop viewing of a tv series. If a show can capture a person's attention that long, most of these shows have adult topics, it's no wonder there's been a shift in favor towards television. Movies will always be loved though. You can't watch TV at a theater. – animerose 5 years ago
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  • Great points made. I think that its definitely a mixture of a lot of things. A good thing to find would be statistics especially from streaming services. It would give great insight into this interesting observation. – vivientopalovic 4 years ago
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