Within a period of only 50 years, Bakelite 78 rpm records have given way to 33 and 1/3 lps, to cassette, CDs, downloads, and now subscription or pay per play streaming.
Terrestrial TV is going the same way… with catch up TV for mainstream channels being used more and more.
For ‘box set’ TV series and films, services like Netflix (tip: subscribe to a legal IP tweak service and get the US version for a much wider choice) are growing exponentially… watch your favourite series without missing an episode.
And alongside this subscription-based streaming, film viewing at home is changing even more dramatically with specialist per view film offers like BFI player (check it out… expensive because it is per view but a superb selection of arthouse and specialist films).
So what of cinema?
The story is much the same… from highly flammable film stock (see Cinema Paradiso) half a century ago, to more stable 35mm prints and in some cases magnetic tape, to hard disc…
Now, with satellite technology, we can enjoy live streaming from theatres, opera houses and live music stages within timezones (next step can only be time travel, surely!) beamed straight to a ‘live cinema’ audience hundreds of miles away…
And even the days of hard disc distribution are numbered. Individual cinemas are increasingly screening streamed ultra high definition digital film on demand, with the film itself streamed, not played back from a local player.
The business model has changed.
And because of this, cinema has changed. Forever.
The Beacon is going to be a very different business prospect from The Winter Gardens for the same reason iTunes and Spotify have made flicking through album racks at HMV a distant memory, enjoyable though that was.
And thank goodness… the days of the multiplex offering only the latest, mainstream fare, naff carpets, grubby (and worryingly sticky) seats, rubbish hot dogs and and loos with broken doors, and with predictably tumbling audiences after just a few days, are numbered.
The reasons why virtually all small town cinemas closed are well known. But no longer relevant.
The market, and new technology, are forcing the industry through a much needed revolution, and our experience of it will be much richer as a result.
Like farmers, cinema operators have had to get clever. They need to diversify.
The Light is an exemplar of this new approach. Live streaming, specialist and arthouse screenings, Q&As, community events, corporate hires, educational days; all these things are necessary for a successful new business model.
The really exciting recent proliferation of smaller independent cinemas; whether renovating beautiful old cinema or other public buildings, or pop up cinemas in Community Halls like Hoylake Community Cinema, is testament to the public appetite for a better, and more local, film experience.
The Beacon will sit in the space between the multiplex and the pop-up community cinema; alongside these renovated classic cinemas (needless to say if Hoylake still had a building we’d be using it!).
It’s a brave new world and as such is a perfect extension for The Light-type concept. And technology is a big reason why it is possible.
Perhaps most significantly for us, it will bring live streamed entertainment to Hoylake. Opera; theatre; music; comedy and more.
It will also provide a facility for local businesses and groups to run events and present on the big screen.
There’s so much more… only limited by YOUR imagination. Because this will be YOUR cinema.
Small towns around the country may be on the brink of seeing their own cinemas finally come back, and offering a better experience than ever before.
Row, row, row your boat…