By Liz Watkins

Guest Contributer from Cable-Compare.com

We’re all very fortunate that we have so many options for watching content nowadays. From the good ol’ trip to the cinema to buying DVDs, watching cable, or subscribing to streaming platforms, there’s an option for everyone, depending on preferences.

But which one is the best option, when it comes to watching movies? They all have advantages and disadvantages, so let’s take a look at the different choices and what they all have to offer.

Cable TV

Plus: For people who want their media consumption to be…uncomplicated and not in any way fussy, cable may still be the best way to do it. As old-fashioned as it may be, cable is, most of all, reliable. Comforting. It hasn’t changed in any significant way in a very long time, which a lot of people love about it.

The other benefit is that it’s always on. Always. Any time you want to take a moment, you can just sit on the sofa, turn the TV on, and there will always be something you want to watch. After all, there are hundreds of channels to choose from.

Not only that, but it can be a real problem-solver for the person who genuinely has no idea or preference on what they want to watch. Cable chooses for you, because you watch what’s on.

There can be a real pleasure in turning the TV on halfway through something and trying to figure out what the movie is all about. An experience that we eliminate entirely when we gain all the control, like in the case of streaming.

Minus: Obviously, underneath the romanticism of cable, lie some rather annoying inconveniences. For example, the many limitations of cable TV. Yes, there are hundreds of channels, but those channels still broadcast whatever they want to, whenever they want to. That means that if you actually find something you want to watch, you must be home at that time. Otherwise, you miss it.

And speaking of missing it, there is no pausing the program when you want to. You have to wait for commercials. And then sit through them. If you need to get up to take a call or go to the bathroom, tough luck – you miss chunks of the movie.

That’s because you are confined to that one room where the TV is; usually, the living room. You can’t watch TV anywhere else but on TV. If you want to watch it in the kitchen, you need to invest in a second TV set. That’s why cable has been losing steam in recent years, and people have become enthusiastic cord-cutters. That, and the fact that cable is so expensive nowadays, that giving it up or asking them to lower your bill is a good way to save money.

Best for: The elderly and the nostalgic still get a kick out of cable TV, and it’s great for comfort watching endless reruns of your favorite 80s sitcoms. A guilty pleasure you can pretend you didn’t choose; it just happened to be on. It’s the only way anyone’s ever admitted to watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

Streaming

Plus: There’s a lot to love about streaming services, which is why they’re so popular among so many people. They offer everything cable doesn’t, in the way of liberty and flexibility in choosing and viewing content. With cable, you can pick anything you want to watch, from the ever-changing content library that these services offer.

In addition, the other major advantage with streaming is that you can stream your favorite shows and movies anywhere, and on any device. That way, it doesn’t matter where you are when you want to enjoy your movie.

You can stream your movie on your phone, tablet, or laptop. That means you can take the movie in your bathtub, on your work trip, on the plane, in bed at night, or anywhere else you may be.

Minus: The flipside, of course, is that the streaming platforms are becoming increasingly expensive, for what they are, thus minimizing the advantage they had over cable and other alternatives. With price increases coming every year, it seems, users are wondering why they’d still bother paying.

That is an especially relevant point, considering the other issue – the content on these platforms is starting to thin out. Companies are pulling their content, as they’re starting to create streaming platforms of their own. That means all the hard-hitters are leaving the popular platforms or are just increasingly difficult to keep.

Combine that with the fact that streaming does rely on having a good, steady internet connection. If your Wi-Fi goes down, so does your movie. And the last thing you want is for your movie to lag just when it’s getting to the pivotal point.

The other issue with streaming is that you need to wait until the content you want is available on the platform. The platform may simply never purchase the movie you want to see, or it may take years. In that respect, it’s actually similar to cable, because there is waiting involved.

Best for: Ironically, streaming platforms are now the best source for original content. Just like networks, they’re creating their own content, alongside the one they’re buying to stream. Also great for TV shows and cult classic movies.

DVDs & Digital downloads

Plus: The big plus with buying DVDs and paying for digital downloads is that they tend to be available before content appears on streaming platforms. You sort of get the best of both worlds, by gaining access to newer content, right after they come out at the cinema.

At the same time, you get to keep your copy of the movie, which means you are free to watch it and re-watch it as many times as you like. The same goes for digital downloads, which are now available in places like YouTube and Amazon.

Plus, you can watch your DVD or digital download on any device you’ve got that is compatible with the format of the movie. That gives you some of the flexibility you enjoy with streaming services, in that you can take your movie to watch anywhere and aren’t confined to the living room, in front of the TV.

Minus: DVD and digital downloads also suffer from the waiting component that we are less and less willing to swallow, these days. The instant gratification entitlement is real. So, if you’re really eager to see a movie, you’ll need to suck it up and pay for the cinema ticket. Knowing that you won’t get to keep the movie.

Of course, the other glaring problem is the cost. Compared to streaming services, where you’d be paying for an entire library of content, DVDs and digital downloads need to be paid for separately, for every single title.

The cost certainly adds up, and in a few years, you may find yourself the proud owner of a DVD library you paid thousands of dollars for, but that isn’t really worth anything, since technology becomes obsolete so quickly. Plus, buying DVDs would be one of the first things to go when you’re on a spending ban. That means no new entertainment for a while.

Best for: When you know you really, really love a movie and want to watch it a thousand times, then it’s worth springing for the DVD version, or a digital download. That way, you’ll have it in your home for those oh-so-important midnight viewings of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Cinema

Plus: When a new movie comes out, it sounds amazing, and you just HAVE to see it, then running to the theatre is your only option. That way, you can be the first (or among the first) to enjoy a new flick, and then you can spoil it for everyone else and feel smug about it for weeks.

In addition, there’s nothing quite like enjoying a movie on the big screen, is there? The image and sound quality are exquisite, the commercials are less annoying, you get to see trailers for upcoming movies, and even the popcorn tastes better when it’s that expensive.

Seeing a movie at the cinema can be a really cool experience, especially when it’s something you know you’ll love. It makes it that little bit more special, and you’ll probably even enjoy it more.

Minus: First, there’s the fact that you need to pay separately for every single movie viewing experience. It’s not ideal, and it’s not cheap. In fact, it quickly adds up, especially when you include the cost of popcorn and sodas these days.

Then, there’s the fact that you actually need to travel to the actual movie theater, which means you are wasting more time, and more money. And you don’t even get to enjoy the movie alone. You’re sitting in a room that is either too hot or too cold, with hundreds of other strangers, some of whom will kick your chair.

And do you at least get to take the movie home with you to re-watch in a quieter setting? Nope. You paid for watching it once, and if you want to see it again, you need to pay for another ticket and go through the experience all over again.

Best for: When you want to transform watching a movie into an entire experience. It’s not worth wasting the price of admission for an Adam Sandler movie (do they even bother to show those in the theatre or do they go straight to DVD?), but if something cool comes out, then it’s worth taking the plunge for the enhanced viewing experience.  

Final thoughts

All in all, watching a movie is an experience you can enjoy in several ways, depending on your preferences and what you’re looking for. Each avenue is going to offer you a different experience. Going to the cinema is still the best option if you want a special viewing experience, and to see a film as soon as it comes out.

Streaming and cable are both similarly priced options that give you access to a variety of content, with different degrees of flexibility. Purchasing the DVD or digital download are good options if you want to own the movie, but ultimately, they become pricy.