In the past, television programmes haven’t had the astronomical budgets of films. But in recent years, budgets have increased, technology has improved massively, and the TV series is becoming almost, if not more, profitable than the classic film. What with companies like Netflix on the rise, the rise of the cinematic TV show seems to have reached its peak.
“Last year, nine UK cinemas even showed the first episode of season five in line with the American television premiere, breaking another record in the process – if that doesn’t scream cinematic I don’t know what does”
HBO are probably the pioneers of this trend, beginning in the 1990s to expand the medium of the television series, creating more intense, thought-provoking forms of entertainment. It’s a channel dedicated to high-quality cinematic programmes, as ‘home box office’ would suggest, and arguably came to prominence with the critically acclaimed The Sopranos’ premiering in 1999. With other big shows such as Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, True Detective and a ton more in the works, HBO’s mastered the art of the cinematic TV series.
A lot of these shows manage to pull in the large audiences with ambitious settings, large casts, and intricate plots, which only increase in scale and grandeur as new seasons are announced. Game of Thrones is obviously the best example: they have one of the largest casts on television, at least four directors per season, and film in locations all around the world. It’s broken records, made billions and has even surpassed The Sopranos to become HBO’s most popular show ever. Last year, nine UK cinemas even showed the first episode of season five in line with the American television premiere, breaking another record in the process – if that doesn’t scream cinematic I don’t know what does.
Producers have been struggling to fit the intricate and epic storylines into the two-hour-ish timeframe allowed by the medium of film, so a shift toward the TV series makes a lot of sense. I mean, try to fit one of George RR Martin’s books into two hours – I dare you. The fans would implode. That’s probably another reason behind the rise of the cinematic TV series – fans of the source material, what with the increasing influence of social media, go batshit crazy when adaptations don’t stay true to the source material, or don’t live up to their expectations.
“I mean, try to fit one of George RR Martin’s books into two hours – I dare you. The fans would implode”
The Harry Potter franchise, while arguably being the most popular extended series of films ever, had its detractors – the novels were so wonderfully intricate that it would’ve been impossible for the filmmakers to include every single fan-favourite-moment from the books, yet this still angered a lot of fans. Turning novels into TV series’ instead of films allows for more creative freedom, bigger profits, and longer-running sagas.