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BLOG: Cinemas will die out and museums will have to evolve

Mark Gibbs | Sept. 18, 2011
When it comes to things like movies and museums, it's all about the experience. But that experience is going to change because it's no longer necessary or even as pleasurable to be at those venues as it once was and you know what will take their place? No? Read on.

Just consider that U.S. ticket sales have been slowly declining since their peak in 2002 (they were $1.58 billion then, today they've dropped to $1.33 billion, lower than they've been since 1997). At the same time, cinema tickets have become correspondingly more expensive. The average movie ticket in 1938 cost $0.36 which is roughly $3.37 today, while today's average ticket price is $7.89, more than double the cost!

If our economy were robust there might be hope for cinemas but, as you may have noticed, the economy is anything but, and should this depression (for that is what it really is) go on for much longer, your local cinema will have a limited shelf life.

Cinemas are already trying to stave off their own demise by holding special showings of remote live events, but that's just a tiny bandage on what will likely become a massive hemorrhage.

Some will say the demise of the cinema would be a shame, that the whole "going to the movies" thing is a valuable and enjoyable social tradition we shouldn't loose. Yeah. And so were hoedowns.

And all of that got me thinking about museums.

As a kid, I loved museums. When I was a preteen and then a teenager I lived outside of London. You could jump on the train to King's Cross and in an hour or so be at the Tate Gallery, the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum.

But today, with transport so expensive no matter where you live, going to a museum is usually a fairly serious outing. And even when you do go, museums, in my experience, are now uncomfortably crowded.

But what do you go to museums for? That's right: to look at things. After all, most museums won't let you fondle the bones of their Tyrannosaurus, let alone touch their 2,000-year-old mummy, and most museums only display a fraction of the material they hold. All of which rather begs the question: Why go at all? If you can't touch the exhibits and often can't get really near, wouldn't an image do just as well?

I contend that when you can't grope the exhibits there's really no point in being physically there. And so, once again, the Internet is the perfect vehicle. As PCs and TVs become bigger and get better displays with more accurate color rendition, the need to be there, where the object is, becomes progressively less compelling.

Moreover, the ability to augment and enhance the experience of examining and exploring an object is a given online. Want to show X-rays of whatever it is? Explain its history? Show its relationships and context to other stuff? No problem ... the opportunities of online presentation of museums makes visiting physical museums far less valuable.

 

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