In the Age of Digital Streaming, Are Movie Theaters Still Relevant?

In the Age of Digital Streaming, Are Movie Theaters Still Relevant?

Find all our Student Opinion questions here.

How often do you watch movies? And where do you like to watch them?

Do you prefer to go to movie theaters, use a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu at home, or a combination of both? Which movies, if any, do you try to see on the big screen? If you usually stream movies, do you use a television, a computer, a tablet or a phone? Now compare these experiences: Which do you think is the best way to watch a movie? Why do you say that?

In “‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,’ Many Times Over,” Brian Raftery writes about a movie theater in Los Angeles that is part of an “art house revival” that is now happening despite the popularity of streaming services:

LOS ANGELES — On a crisp Saturday night last month, a hundred movie lovers got into their cars and drove to the New Beverly Cinema, an old theater on Beverly Boulevard, to relive a golden age of Hollywood.

As a 1960s radio broadcast played overhead, ticket holders walked past a lobby filled with vintage artifacts like a “Make Love Not War” banner and “Green Hornet” poster before taking their seats.

“You open the doors and it’s 1969,” said Brian Quinn, a theater manager, who took the stage at 7:30 p.m. to introduce the night’s main attraction: “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, who also owns the New Beverly.

The audience gasped, laughed and applauded as they followed the tale of a fading TV star (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), his loyal stuntman (Brad Pitt) and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), set in the final days before Charles Manson upended Hollywood’s collective psyche.

Such cinematic time capsules have been a fixture at the New Beverly, a 225-seat, single-screen theater that is emblematic of an art house revival in Los Angeles and beyond. The theater shows studio classics and cult films, including many movies by Mr. Tarantino. And last July, when “Once Upon a Time” was released, it was added to the lineup, selling out more than 50 consecutive screenings.

The article suggests there are reasons beyond seeing a movie that draw people to the New Beverly Cinema:

Nostalgia remains one of the theater’s biggest draws. “It’s the closest thing to a time machine I’ll ever see in my lifetime,” said Alison Martino, 49, a journalist and historian who has seen the film at the New Beverly 11 times.

When Ms. Martino first saw the scene in which Sharon Tate visits the Fox Bruin Theater on Broxton Avenue (which still stands), she recalled her weekend nights there as a teenager in the 1980s. “I cried, because so much of my childhood was there,” said Ms. Martino, who runs the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.

For those who weren’t around during those years, the theater offers a sense of camaraderie so often lost in the age of at-home streaming. “It’s a good escape,” said Mr. Vasquez, who has seen the film at least a dozen times at the New Beverly. “There’s no plot to the movie, really. But I just like to hang out with these characters, and be in that world.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Would you want to visit the New Beverly Cinema or any of the other theaters mentioned in the article? Why or why not? As you read, were you reminded of any vintage or vintage-inspired movie theaters you have visited or heard about? How does the New Beverly Cinema compare with the kind of movie theaters typically found near where you live?

  • The article states:

“A generation of people who have only seen movies at home now want to see them” in theaters, said Jake Perlin, 44, the artistic director at Metrograph. “They’re realizing that nothing is greater than watching something like ‘Bells Are Ringing’ with another couple hundred people.”

To what degree do you think Mr. Perlin is right? Do you think the experience of watching a movie in a theater is markedly better than just streaming it? And if so, what makes it better? Is it the communal experience of watching with other people? The larger screen? The superior sound system? The smell of buttered popcorn?

  • What have the older people in your life told you about how they watched movies when they were your age? What, if anything, about their stories appeals to you? Why?

  • You read about people who have seen “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” multiple times in a theater. What movie holds your personal record for most viewings? Why have you watched it so many times? How many times, if ever, did you see it in the theater? Where and how did you watch it the other times?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.