This paper argues that cinema's place in the media and entertainment economy is again being challenged.
Around three decades ago, multi-screen complexes began to transform the business and culture of cinema in Australia. New screens built in new locations and environments encouraged different patterns of distribution and eventually production. Audiences responded and theatrical exhibition revived but as part of a more diverse exhibition landscape where home video and later subscription TV and DVD generated more of the money that flowed back to distributors and filmmakers. Cinema retained its place as the first release medium of choice for most feature filmmakers, especially those operating with big budgets. It still offered a peerless social and cultural space to watch movies and an ideal economic site to begin their commercial exploitation.
Over the last few years, the infrastructure of the cinema industry has again been transformed, this time by digital technology. As this report is being finalised, all of Australia's major exhibitors' screens and more than three-quarters of independent exhibitors' screens have been converted to digital projection. By the end of 2013, few movies are expected to be distributed in Australia as film prints. The cinema industry will no longer be a film industry. Filmmakers have long embraced digital technology to help them tell their stories. Theatrical distributors have now supported it to reduce the cost of transporting movies to cinemas. Some exhibitors have welcomed the ability it gives them to improve image and sound quality in their cinemas, to schedule more flexibly and to screen content other than movies.
But the digital era has also brought audiences more ways to see movies, many new types of content and novel ways of spending their time. Cinema's place in the media and entertainment economy is again being challenged.