What better way to spend hours on a flight than to watch movies? The movies on leading airlines, such as Delta and JetBlue, aren’t your box-office bombs either! There’s a wide range of movies available, from recent Oscar contenders to indie films and foreign language flicks.
While it may sound like the movie-watching experience in an airplane isn’t as delightful as inside a theater, it actually is. Except for the darkened environment, an in-flight movie binge has all the hallmarks of a theater experience – large screen, sound-surround system, and food and drinks, as well as a comfortable seat. The main difference is that each passenger can choose from a list of titles – at least, it’s possible in many of the major airlines for their long-haul flights.
The enduring popularity of in-flight movie marathons makes sense, too. For one thing, about 48% of American adults take airplane rides to get from Point A to Point B. The prospect of spending hours on a flight without entertainment isn’t appealing for passengers and, thus, airlines have used movies as a marketing strategy.
For another thing, the increasing costs of watching movies in a brick-and-mortar theater is a deterrent for some people. In the United States, for example, it’s common for an individual to spend $40 to $50 on a single movie – the cost of the ticket, popcorn and soda, and gas money and parking cost included. On a flight, most of the movies are free to watch – excluding the airfare, of course – and there’s plenty to choose from.
For their part, the major airlines have been more than happy to feed their passengers’ appetite for great on-board movies.
Many of the leading carriers have formed partnerships with major Hollywood production companies, such as Disney, Paramount, and Warner Bros. The movies can then be played onboard flights as soon as these have finished their theater runs and, in some cases, quicker than on major streaming services like Netflix.
And it isn’t just the household names in airlines that are beefing up their movie lineups either. Alaska Airlines, for example, offer more than 400 movies according to its product manager of in-flight entertainment David Scotland.
Choosing from a movie lineup during a flight is akin to selecting movies on a streaming service, too. Depending on the organization method used by the airline, passengers can choose from titles based on genre, theme, or occasion. American Airlines, for example, will reportedly offer movies celebrating Pride Month by June 2019.
Many of the movies bring on the nostalgia, too. There are comedies, romantic comedies, and spy movies from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s – known as comfort content – alongside the most recent blockbusters. Since each person can choose from the available lineup, there’s little to no risk of being bored by what’s being shown on a single overhead screen.
Yet another reason in-flight movies are becoming more popular and airlines are working harder than ever to meet their passengers demands is time. Frequent flyers, for instance, simply don’t have the time to watch movies in theaters, especially the first releases, because of their busy schedules. This is all too true for travelling executives.
The result: Many passengers consider their favorite airlines as their personal theaters, sort of. There are movies, too, that aren’t available in the major theater chains but are offered as in-flight entertainment. Documentaries, indie films, and foreign language oddballs are available alongside blockbusters from yesteryears and today.
Many of the in-flight films are discovered by new audiences or enjoyed by others after their limited theatrical release. Mary Queen of Scots, an indie drama about royalty; City of Gold, a documentary about food critic Jonathan Gold; and The Wife, a literary drama starring Glenn Close have become favorites among frequent flyers.
These movies would have been buried under entertaining but less substantial flicks were it not for their inclusion as in-flight entertainment.
Such is the popularity of in-flight movies that many frequent fliers actually plan their movie-watching experience even before boarding their planes. Jason Ma, a writer and actor who shuttles between Los Angeles and New York often, has a list of movies he will see while on board, say, an American Airlines flight a day or two before the schedule.
But there are downsides to watching in-flight movies, too, which passengers should consider. The videos can be paused or the soundtrack stopped due to public announcements. The pre-roll ads are annoying because of their sappiness and repetitiveness. The screens are small so special effects aren’t as impressive as on the big screen.
For passengers on long-haul flights, nonetheless, in-flight entertainment is always a welcome diversion from the boredom of being stuck in a metal can 30,000 feet up the air.
Just be sure to be mindful about airplane etiquette when watching movies. You don’t want your fellow passengers to be disturbed in their own little world, just as you want your movie-watching space to be respected.