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Battle of the Movie Screens - The Pros and Cons

The streaming service revolution is upon us with Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+, Google Movies and Showmax among others. It's become a crowded space for service providers, who now make it possible to get your fix of entertainment on just about any device or screen. During the pandemic years, a debate raged about release dates with some titles going straight to streaming on the same day as their cinematic release.

Understandably if cinema attendance is throttled and there's a general hesitation to risk contracting an airborne disease, you make the necessary precautions. While it's amazing that some theatres managed to weather the Covid-19 storm, it's positive to see that audiences are returning to cinemas. While Christopher Nolan's Tenet pioneered its way back to cinemas in order to help stave off a complete collapse, it's actually the blockbusters and surprise smash box office hits like Top Gun: Maverick (which was delayed some years) that are showing encouraging signs as moviegoers head back to the movies.

Battle of the Movie Screens

Martin Scorsese's The Irishman had a limited release to cinemas but was essentially a 3-hour film destined for streaming services only. While Netflix is becoming a major contender come awards season each year with a steady slew of award-worthy films garnering a number of choice nominations, they are realising certain limitations of the small screen model. While it's interesting to see this shift in the film industry as "straight-to-video" films get the golden nod (not an award), it appears that there could be a slight change in format with talk of the release format around the much-anticipated Knives Out murder mystery musical sequel, Glass Onion.

So now seems like a good time to talk about size... more specifically the pros and cons of screen size in the Battle of the Movie Screens. Also it's in descending order from biggest screen to smallest - don't fight it.



Watching movies big... like really beeg... has always been the best way to do it. Cinema is all about raising the stakes, escalating the consequences and basically satisfying the notion that bigger is better when it comes to screen size. Sharing laughs and frights, it's this collective cinematic experience that unites and binds us as humans as our auras and destinies mingle? Most cineplexes have top-end sound and crisp visuals from high-end digital projectors making colossal sensory-absorbing screens the easiest way to slip into a collective dream. Since Marvel, Pixar and Disney have been delivering spectacular blockbusters to satiate these escapist desires, the big screen experience has remained front and centre. It's easily the most visceral way to watch a movie, enhanced even further by IMAX's powerful audio-visuals. Feel the sound, reach out and touch the 3D... you can't but you think you can.


The down side is that most cinemas come with about a hundred seats. You can reduce your chances of disruption by watching in a VIP cinema with luxury recliners and those iffy drink coolers or by catching an early morning or late night screening but what ruins the big screen movie experience is people. That's right, people. As much as we love 'em, they constantly find new ways to turn our happy, shiny rainbows into brooding rain clouds - work the visuals on that one. You do, however, get that odd occasion when a movie's been playing a few weeks and the cinema's almost empty. Or you fell asleep and the usher forgot to wake you up after the midnight screening and now you have to pretend you're watching the movie again for the first time with the morning show's audience.

Where were we? So it's just you, your popcorn combo and your movie... until that other shadow or two emerge from the door. Arriving in an empty cinema, their choice to literally sit right next to you becomes questionable, verging on creepy until you realise your movie buddy just went to the bathroom. Disruptions, odd smells, talking, loud eating, blinking cellphone lights... sadly, it's a joy albeit a rarity to watch a movie with an audience who's just as considerate as you are. Read Spling's Cinema Code of Conduct, an etiquette guide to make going to the movies great again.



You've literally got a portal... a wormhole and possibly even a blackhole in your living room. That screen can take you places, whether you enjoy armchair travel in the Pyrenees or vicarious graphic first-person shooter violence. Television seems pretty normal now but consider how alien the concept of having a window to any number of worlds must have been in its inception. Watching MacGyver blow things up using stuff from your pantry, seeing dinosaurs create a ripple effect in a cup of water, watching sport from inside stadiums for free or enjoying a kids show where a clown literally makes eye contact with you... it was pure magic.

Smart screens have taken it a step further by connecting to the internet enabling us to give our TVs further dominion over our down time. Downloading apps, streaming directly via the TV or media box, accessing on demand entertainment... it's become a one-stop shop for all our entertainment needs and best of all, there are no fines for returning movies late! We don't even have to record things or figure out how to record things. Gone are the days where you had to press pause during adverts or figure out how to schedule to record using your Hitachi VHS machine's thick user guide now that the faceplate has fallen off. Everything is just there, waiting for your highness to press play.

It's in your house and available 24/7 if you live alone. TV screens have come a long way, now referred to as flat screens owing to their... you get it, LED, Plasma, LCD etc. While it used to cost a few months salary to get a big screen CRT type monitor back in the day, it's become increasingly cheaper to ensure you have a wall dedicated to holding up your TV. Ranging over 100' in size, it's just getting beyond ridiculous with people buying screens that actually require them to do renovations just to house them. Watching a wall size screen is the dream and getting crystal clear picture and sound is an absolute must if you are considering going the massive flat screen route. Even smaller screens pack a punch and while it's never going to be quite as big as a 100-seater cinema screen, you may as well try to impress everyone who steps foot into your home cinema.


TV screens can be expensive but are directly proportional to what you're able to afford or entertain without getting square eyes (ask your doctor). Giving you thousands of hours of entertainment bliss, it's easy to see why some people eventually do equip their living rooms with state-of-the-art everything. Being able to watch 4K discs, immerse yourself in an Atmos sound bath and escape into another dimension through your magic wall from the comfort of your home and in your favourite attire or lack thereof... why would you want to leave home?

Portability is obviously an issue when it comes to taking your screen in your car because as you may remember it was already a battle to fit it into your car when you first brought your baby home. Plus it's tethered to your wall and electrical socket, dependent on the steady flow of electricity... a real bummer if you don't have an inverter for black outs and load-shedding. So if you're happy to wallow in your viewing room now broke because you thought installation was free, upsize it to a full-on home cinema to your shared wall neighbour's disgust or spend more than 4K for stay-at-home entertainment you're onto a winner!



It's not really a screen but it does project an image that usually hits a screen, so we're adding it to the mix. There was a strong argument for projectors a few years back, which used to be much more cost-effective in terms of dimensions than your average large flat screen. While there are some entry level projectors that do the trick - the cost of bulb replacement makes them a bit trickier to maintain - especially when you consider that most LCD screens last at least 10 times longer than your average 3,000 hour bulb.

The main attraction of owning a projector nowadays is that you can take them anywhere. So while they may not be quite as desirable as they used to be, they offer a great deal of versatility when it comes to creating your own open air cinema or music festival on a balmy night, tracing the outlines of an artwork for a mural or giving a presentation about the effects of Cannabis at parents and teacher's night. Having a projector set up permanently can make life as easy as hitting power and play - you know after removing the lens cap. Let's not forget the projector is much more in-line with the cinema experience, lighting up any rising smoke so as to give that authentic Cinema Paradiso feel. Another major plus with a projector is that it lends itself to social meet ups and is just a great excuse to chill out with friends.


Besides buying spare bulbs at an added expense or searching eBay for your model's specific bulb that was discontinued under mysterious circumstances, there are a few negative aspects in owning a nifty projector. The set up is fairly cumbersome if you're prone to using it for special occasions such as games night or movie night over that one weekend you just want to veg or watch the complete Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies back-to-back. Getting an extension lead, finding the right input, connecting a laptop or optical disc player and/or a Bluetooth speaker... it can be a mission.

Once you're set up, the fun and games continue in finding the right focus, adjusting the screen size, getting the keystone just right based on the angle of the projector and many other fiddly considerations... Once it's ready to roll, your projector may give the rainbow effect when things pan on screen, not have enough lumens to watch anything in daylight or be projected onto a stained bedsheet that happens to be flapping in the wind. Whether your problem is not having the right wall for it or having everyone that only knows you by your nickname asking you to lend it for an "event" that turns into a few hundred hours of valuable lamp life... projectors can be pretty darn finnicky for all the joy they bring. Their portability gives them some edge but compared with buying an 82' flat screen you really have to spend an absolute fortune (including pawning off those He-Man collectibles you thought were worth something) in order to match for clarity and lifespan.



A few decades back people didn't have fancy, paper-thin fold out computers that you can move around without tripping over wires. In fact, some didn't have anything to point their furniture at... shocked? Nowadays that's been normalised with people bypassing the whole TV license debacle by just not having one at all. Using laptops to play DVDs and Blu-rays used to be a thing and now we're so progressive, we don't even need a drive to install software or watch our favourite movies. Nope, we can just download and stream at will. Subscribe to a few streaming services and "hey presto" you're getting your entertainment through the air in an age where wireless is no longer the radio.

Laptops are portable, versatile, able to be moved around the house, taken on car trips and even camping if you like watching (or making) scary movies in the woods. Having a medium-sized fold up screen has made laptops supremely popular and a worthy substitute over having an actual television. It's literally designed to receive a wi-fi signal making it the perfect solution for connecting online and getting your entertainment through legal channels. Why bother with peer-to-peer networks and downloading ripped copies of movies when you can get so much great stuff for next to nothing. Got an HDMI cable? Just hook it up to the biggest screen you can find at your friend's spot when the time comes and everything seems golden, right?


If you've ever owned one of these keyboarded screens, you'll know the device's limitations. Battery power is the biggest issue, relegating you movie-less if you forgot to charge your laptop before heading to the beach or woods. Sure, you can plug-and-play with a power cable if its stationary but laptops require pre-planning and pre-packing. It may be time to keep a spare power adapter in the car. The other drawback from laptop viewing is that the screen is very medium-sized to let's say it... small. This may work well enough if you're watching on your own but always seems like a Plan B if you've invited 20 of your best friends around to uh... huddle.

You can squish your face up against the screen or watch in the dark and pretend you're a giant at a drive-in but chances are, you're not getting all the juice out of your movies. Before you think we're skipping over this... sound can often be suspect on a laptop. If your computer has built in Dolby or whatever, things will naturally improve, but let's get real - you need to pair your laptop with a decent Bluetooth speaker or get some of those expensive, big can headphones to really fly.

Mobile Phones


Before you get on your high horse about the art of cinema and how one cannot possibly appreciate the full extent of the filmmaker's vision... let's all just admit that watching movies on a mobile phone is not the first choice and we know it. The beauty of mobile phone viewing is that it's on your phone, which is mobile. Wait, this actually makes sense. If you've been brainwashed like the rest of us, chances are you have a smart phone that's started to do most of the thinking for you. It plans your calendar, serves as a night light and brings us ceaseless joy in a creepy Her kinda way. You can download apps, ones that enable you to download entertainment "content" and watch at your leisure.

Smaller screens mean smaller downloads if you're trying to conserve data but can actually deliver a decent blast of in-your-face fun... and we're not talking about when you drop your phone while watching in bed. Phones make watching movies super easy when you're waiting in a queue, sitting at the beach or travelling (better if you're not driving). Plugging in headphones, hovering that device in a suitable position... they're versatile, compact and handy as an entertainment companion in all kinds of emergencies.


As mentioned, phones are small but hard devices that have a tendency to smash our faces (or theirs) when we least expect it. Getting one of those dorky neck sling phone holders can be an absolute life-saver in the battle of the droopy eyelid but much like Crocs is something you may only want to wear around the home and while doing non-lethal housework.

The other downer is that their screens are small. As much fun as it is getting virtual reality goggles and turning your phone into a mini cinema, in most instances it's just better to watch on a bigger screen. While their battery life is usually a whole lot better than your laptop's, which seems to be more like 1.5 hours than 3, it's still worth packing a power bank or two to keep your phone juiced to the max. It's one of those screens that can literally save the day when you find yourself stuck in an elevator or minding an unruly child who will only settle if plonked in front of Paw Patrol or some other anthropomorphic torment.

Unfortunately, for your entourage... cellphones are strictly one-on-one viewing experiences or for couples in committed relationships. Trying to watch with one person holding the screen upright for too long eventually results in some form of non-compliance so it's best to get one of those phone holders to contort into a stand if you want your relationship to last the movie's running time.


What? Did you expect a big foam finger with Cinemas or Mobile Phones Are #1? Some people are so damn fancy they have access to every kind of screen listed in this article. So at the risk of sounding like reading this whole article was a big waste of time... The Battle of the Screens continues... and who knows, maybe we'll have to include a section for holographic screens before too long! Our advice is find a screen that suits the occasion and your movie-watching habits best - and enjoy it.