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A call to modernise theatre and cinema

Both the theatre and the cinema as entertainment mediums have been in crisis for the past few years. Experts and fans are trying to figure out what the future holds for both mediums, and how they could be preserved in their present format – if they should be at all.

Theatre, historically, was one of the cheapest and most popular forms of entertainment, yet since the invention of cinema at the end of the 19th century, theatre’s popularity has been threatened. Although the two mediums are quite different, they are often compared to each other. The conclusion is that theatre is the more sophisticated, but also more boring entertainment, whereas cinema is seen as fun and accessible to everyone, therefore lacking prestige.

Experts and fans are trying to figure out what the future holds for both mediums

I am both a theatre-goer and a film enthusiast. I love the theatre because of the spontaneity of the live-action show, the personal connection between the audience and actors, and the special atmosphere created by the present-ness of the moment. I love that a good play does not over-explain everything for you, but invites you to think, to interpret, to participate in the creation of the whole experience. It is often different from movies, in which you are presented with carefully selected images. That is one of the reasons why many people prefer to go to the cinema: they can sit back and enjoy the fictional story that a director has already interpreted for them, after a long day of harsh reality.

Theatre has a reputation of being addressed to older generations and to the ‘cultured’ ones, whatever that means. Opera and ballet are seen as an even ‘higher-quality’ form of entertainment, most likely due to rising ticket prices. Despite the growing number of student and family discounts, it is still generally unaffordable for young adults and families to attend the theatre regularly. There is a great demand, especially among the young, for the theatre to be modernised. Ostensibly, the process has begun: many claim that theatre has changed more in the last decade than in the past 50 years. The use of technology and effects on stage, as well as social media in advertising and even as part of the performance, has definitely adapted theatre to our age and made it more popular among the younger generations. More than ever, directors are opting for new plays, written by and for the modern age, and even purists are modernising their performances.

There is a great demand, especially among the young, for the theatre to be modernized

Filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and Ridley Scott have voiced their fear that cinema is a dying art too, due to the growing popularity of Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube. The comfort of watching Netflix in our own homes, wearing pyjamas, eating whatever we like, and stopping the show whenever we choose is what makes it so popular. Series are on the rise too: arguably, the character development is much more detailed, making these shows more complex and easier to relate to. After watching something like that, we miss the complexity of the characters in a two hour long movie. The Netflix generation has grown out of the good-versus-evil narrative. We won’t be charmed by glorified heroes anymore and we want to know the reasons behind the villains’ actions.

Cinema is a dying art too, due to the growing popularity of Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube

Both mediums, then, are in danger, despite the serious attempt of preserving them for the future in their original forms. The meshing of the two industries seems like a good idea: many people enjoy screenings of theatre plays such as the National Theatre’s ‘NT Live’. Due to the close-ups, the audience can discover little details in costumes and mimics that they might not see in the actual theatre. I, however, am sceptical: for me, the essence of theatre, the spontaneity, is lost in those screenings. I would suggest that the modernisation of both art forms to today’s needs is our best attempt at maintaining their longevity.

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