Is Cinema Dead Again?

Image by Dibakar Roy.

Perhaps no other art form has died as consistently as the cinema. Throughout almost every moment of its history, critics have proclaimed the medium to be dying, decaying, declining, or decadent.

Any history of cine-death would have to begin in 1895, when Louis Lumière purportedly called the cinematograph “an invention without a future.”

Thirty years later, critics like René Clair, Rudolf Arnheim, and Béla Balázs worried that technological advances would precipitate cinema’s demise. In their view, the advent of sound and color would make the movies too much like real life. How would spectators fall into a dream-like trance if the images were realistic?

The invention of the television caused movie attendance to drop precipitously in the 1950s, bringing about a new wave of concern. After that, cinema’s death became a commonly invoked trope for critics, theorists, and filmmakers alike.

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