Cinema is dead and Endgame killed it. It may sound paradoxical to say that a film that put butts in seats to the tune of $1.2 billion last weekend was the nail in the coffin of the cinema experience, but that’s the argument that film critic Matt Zoller Seitz puts forth in a new essay on RogerEbert.com. What’s more, Seitz argues that the success of Endgame and, to a similar degree, the spectacle of Game Of Thrones’ most recent episode, marks the transition from one era to another. It is, in a broad sense, the end of cinema and the beginning of content.
In this context, Seitz uses the word “content” to signify a piece of media that’s synonymous with a brand and exists as part of a larger content stream, in which one piece blends seamlessly into the next to cross platforms and string the audience along. “Cinema,” on the other hand, refers to a single cinematic work that exists as an end in itself. In the last ten years, we’ve seen a lot more of the former than the later. The films of the MCU, Seitz argues, bear a closer resemblance to serialized television than they do the standalone blockbuster features of old. Alternatively, the Game Of Thrones showrunners are boastful of the fact that this season of their TV show is more akin to six mini-movies.
Both of these cultural juggernauts have evolved beyond the bounds of their platforms to become something new. They are content and we are content consumers. This transformation didn’t take place overnight, of course. Seitz says that these changes evolved alongside the technology we use to produce and consume media, adding that he’s “increasingly convinced that film and TV started merging a long time ago, before most of us were aware what was going on.” This weekend, however, marks a definitive turning point.
This isn’t to say that Seitz doesn’t like these movies or TV shows. He does. He found Endgame affecting, but there just isn’t any denying that the MCU as a cultural artifact functions wholly differently than the blockbusters of old. “I can also honestly say that, at this point, I’m more curious than apprehensive about what the future will bring,” Seitz writes. “This is the kind of cultural moment people tell their grandkids and great-nephews and nieces about…This is really, really big.”
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