It's easy to forget that, in many ways, going to the movies is not a natural communal experience. Most go to see new films at cinemas because they have to, and because they are used to doing so. While people will always visit bars and clubs – if only to meet members of the opposite sex – it's unlikely we would leave the house given the option to download good quality copies of a film at a fair price for viewing at home.
In the 1950s, before the advent of TV, cinemas used to show serials as well as feature-length movies, but these became obsolete when people realised they could watch similar fare more conveniently in their living rooms. In fact, it's possible to argue that the release window is the only thing keeping the cinema industry alive. Even 3D, the great revolution that was designed to revive box office fortunes – and has succeeded in doing so – will soon be available at home. The first 3D TVs have just gone on sale in this country, and broadcasters such as Sky have firm plans for new channels to take advantage of the technology.
All of this, of course, ignores the unfettered joy of seeing a film on the big screen. It is the reason why laughter tracks were first inserted into comedy shows on TV – people missed the feeling of being in the company of others. But would the death of cinemas really be such a loss? Hollywood fare is often predicated on the tastes of teenagers, who make up the largest portion of the cinema-going population. It is designed for the big screen, and big soundsystems, which means it is often built around spectacular action scenes and special effects. The difference between seeing a Roland Emmerich movie in the cinema and at home, is palpable.
In fact, in a world without big screens, Burton's Alice in Wonderland and those other famous five movies that have broken the $1bn barrier might never have existed. Will we see a return to more cerebral fare, aimed at the older people who enjoy watching a film at home? Would the whole concept of a blockbuster movie go out the window? Or would things remain pretty much the same? One thing's for sure – curious and curiouser doesn't even begin to cut it.