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How movie/TV watching has changed     (posted 2024-02-19)

Back in the 1990s, for a good number of years, I would go to see the "sneak preview" every week. One show a week would be dedicated to showing a movie that hadn't been released yet. And which movie would be a surprise. This meant I ended up seeing all big ticket movies, as well as a good number of additional smaller movies. And with rare exceptions, I would be happy to sit through them.

These days, I very often find myself getting bored with a movie that I'm watching. Now obviously a lot has changed in the intermediate almost 30 years. Have movies gotten worse? I'd say they have. But not so much that this explains me happily watching pretty much any movie in the 1990s vs getting bored by about half of them in the 2020s. Do we have a shorter attention span and more distractions today than we had 30 years ago? Again, yes. But I don't think that's the full explanation.

I think the reason it's so hard to focus on any movie or TV show/episode is that we have so much more choice today. Back in the 1990s I would have a choice between maybe a handful of movies that seemed decent prospects. Or when watching TV, there were about a dozen channels with limited VCR-based time shifting. So unless something was completely terminally boring, we'd sit through it.

These days, I subscribe to three streaming services and I have around 100 movies and TV show seasons on DVD. So how much time should I give a movie or TV show before giving up and giving something else a try? Definitely not the full 90 (or 140...) minutes for movies. For TV shows, why would I give something with a poor pilot a second chance? "Slow burn", sure, have me waste hours and then decide it sucks. I don't think so.

The grass is always greener on the other side.

Or is it? Should we give our content more time to grab our interest?

Back in the 1990s and before we definitely gave boring and/or slow content too much of our time. It seems obvious we went too far in the other direction these days. But where do we draw the line?

The past few days I watched "No Time to Die" and "The Age of Adeline". The former is a bond flick which was way too long. There was definitely some good stuff there, but 2 hours and 43 minutes worth. With "The Age of Adeline", everything was slow to begin with and didn't pick up speed later. The science fiction element where we ask ourselves what happens if you grow older but physically stay young forever are interesting, but handled in a boring way.

In these days where hundreds of other movies and TV shows are competing for our attention (not to mention video games), being boring is a deadly sin. I finished both these movies by ignoring the sunken cost fallacy, but in retrospect, I should have bailed out at some point.

Two things that don't help here are the increasing length of blockbusters. I recently saw Schindler's List at 3:15. It was painful. I needed a bunch of 25-minute sessions to get through it. Yes, because of the subject matter. But also the length.

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