Why we are in the golden age of entertainment, and why it’s here to stay.

Why we are in the golden age of entertainment, and why it’s here to stay.
September 2, 2015 Luke McClelland

In the entertainment industry, the term ‘golden age’ has been used a lot over the years.

As a child, school taught me about the golden age of Hollywood, spanning from the 1920s into the 60s and possibly beyond. Black and white movies and visits to the cinema in your Sunday best to see the latest Clarke Gable masterpiece.

As a teenager I was regaled with stories from a family friend of the golden age of videogames in the 70s, spending his youth in the local city arcade playing Space Invaders and Pac-Man, dropping his pocket money like skittles.

And as recently as two years ago (and well into my professional career working in an industry that I love), MIPCOM claimed we were in the golden age of television, with cinematic content and Hollywood A-listers appearing on the small screen to create short form, episodic content for the masses.

From where I’m standing, while these periods were no doubt turning points in their respective industries and remembered fondly by all fortunate enough to have experienced them, there has never been a better time for all three industries than right now. Why? One word – innovation.

Putting aside music (which has demonstrated for a number of years now the benefits of harnessing innovation in both creation and delivery), let’s look at film – an industry that has been at the forefront of innovation in entertainment since the very first motion picture over 100 years ago.

In the past decade we’ve seen breathtaking blockbusters brought to life through 3D and IMAX. We’ve seen filmmakers push the boundaries of realism through cutting edge CGI, green screen production, and 48 frames per second capture. More importantly, we’ve seen an industry adapt to the very real threat of technology and home entertainment, surviving a period that many believed would be the end of the iconic silver screen.

And still, the innovation continues – both in production and delivery. Just last week the man with the Midas touch of Hollywood, James Cameron, discussed the production of Avatar 2 (the highly-anticipated sequel to the highest grossing movie of all time) and the use of cutting-edge motion capture technology and underwater filming techniques to deliver a more immersive and interactive experience than we’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, cinemas in the UK are experimenting with 4D screenings, transforming auditoriums in fully-immersive environments that stimulate all of your senses – not just vision.

In gaming, we’re now nearly two years into the latest console cycle, with players around the world benefitting from the next generation of hardware, interactivity and social connection provided by the market’s leading consoles.

In Los Angeles this past June, the industry revealed one of its biggest and most ambitious software line ups of recent years, with every major player bringing some truly breathtaking cinematic games to the table. But while gameplay, graphics and storytelling is more theatrical than ever, and social integration offer gamers new and exciting forums in which to compete, the real innovation in this industry lies in the use of virtual and augmented reality.

As the most interactive of the three forms of entertainment we are discussing, perhaps it’s no surprise that this industry is placing more stock in these exciting and emerging technologies than others. Arguably, they have more application in gaming, transporting the player into a fully immersive, interactive and controllable environment, truly blending the physical and virtual worlds.

As to which of the two technologies (virtual reality, which makes the player feel as though they are inside the game, or augmented reality, which brings the game into the real world), or even whether either will gain mainstream adoption remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the next five years in this industry will take us to the next level in terms of immersion and experience.

Which brings us to television. Depending on who you listen to, we could be in the second or third golden age of this industry. Either way, it’s hard to ignore the shift we’ve experienced in the past five years particularly.

Shows such as The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Mad Men are considered by many to have sparked this latest age, but for me it was the 2013 release of the Netflix original series, House of Cards.

Both in Australia and around the world, it is almost impossible to discuss television without discussing Netflix – a non-traditional, disruptive form of the classic medium that to date has attracted over 65 million members globally. With House of Cards, we saw two significant shifts in the industry.

First, a Hollywood powerhouse made the move from the silver screen to the small screen. As one of the most celebrated and talented actors of the past century, Kevin Spacey’s involvement in the show (which has won almost every major industry award) made a statement to the entertainment industry: TV is no longer film’s poorer, low quality little brother.

Consumers want long-form, premium and engaging content – and they want it in a way that fits into their lives easily, and flawlessly. And this is exactly what Mr. Spacey and Netflix gave them.

Which leads us to the second shift – the change in consumer perception that saw Internet TV go from being “YouTube that you pay for” or complex technology that consumers did not understand, or in most cases did not want to understand, to a truly viable form of home entertainment. With everyday life more cluttered and fragmented than ever, consumers want content where they want, when they want, and on any device they want. And video on demand is the way to get it.

We are only at the very beginning of this journey. Mainstream awareness of video streaming is growing every day – as is evident by the success of Netflix and other services around the world – and with cinematic, theatrical series launching in droves (see True Detective, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead for just three recent examples), alongside innovations such as Ultra HD 4K video and algorithm powered content discovery, there has never been a better time to watch the small screen.

So, while the exact period in which each of these mediums experienced their golden age will no doubt be debated for years to come, I say that one fact rings true: Right now, we are most certainly in the golden age of entertainment.

Written by Luke McClelland, Account Director – Pulse Communications