Live Theater vs. Watching Movies or TV

Posted on 11 Dec 00:00


Long before man invented HD devices, high-end cameras, and the plethora of LED and LCD televisions that we have in the world today, there was live theater. In those days, fans and viewers didn’t have cable or social media to follow up on their favorite actors. Instead, they had to rely on hard print posters to tell them where the next show is scheduled to hold. While this may seem unethical for serious movie buffs of this time and age to believe, the live theater was the pride and joy of people in the ancient world. It doesn’t only give them the chance to see their favorite actors and actresses up close, but it also puts them at the epicenter of the action and drama.

It may also surprise some to know that, in this time and age, some theatergoers pay good money to watch drama performed live on stage. But that’s not all. In recent times, a few drama-lovers have expressed their love for live stage performances, and, at the same time, make bold claims that live theater, is better than watching movies or TV.

Of course, die hard movies buffs, classic film lovers, and the aficionados of out of print movies, had a few things to say about the matter. While we almost cannot deny the fact that both sides have legitimate reasons for loving what they love, we also cannot ignore the underlying question. Is live theater really better than watching movies or TV?

Differences between live theater and screenplay:

Over the years we have heard a lot of arguments about how live theater is better than a screenplay, and how a play feels more alive when one is watching up close, as opposed to watching it from a distance, on a TV screen. While the main objective of this piece is to draw a clear line of difference between live theater and screenplay, we can come to our own conclusions through the following arguments.

  1. Performance

If you’ve had the chance to watch a live play, in a live theater auditorium, in the past. Then, you would know that stage performers portray their characters a little differently from how screenplay actors portray theirs. Stage performers are more dramatic with their acting compared to the screenplay actors. In fact, some serious movie buffs might say that stage performers portray the characters, that they’re meant to depict with exaggerated actions. Others may even call it fake acting. Nevertheless, you won’t find that kind of dramatic acting on TV nor in movies.

But then again, movie actors and actresses don’t have to portray their movie characters with exaggerated performances, because they have stand alone cameras and microphones surrounding them throughout the duration of the shoot. Stage performers, on the other hand, don’t have this kind of luxury. Even though a few live theater houses in our modern-day society, use body microphones to amplify sound in their auditorium, stage performers still need to exaggerate their actions for the benefit of the back seat audience.

  1. Voice Projection

One thing that really stands out with regards to live theater and stage play is the larger than life performance that the stage actors create with their natural voices. This is only possible with onstage acting, as the actors are trained to act for the back row audiences. As a result, they project their actions and voices with a vehemence that would make everyone in the auditorium to feel the full weight of their performance. Film actors, in classic films and contemporary films, don’t need to project their voices or enunciate every word with vehemence for the audiences to hear. They have highly sensitive microphones around them, picking up every sound. This way, they can relate with other actors on the scene in low voices, and you would still hear them clearly. So if you are a live theatergoer or a drama-lover and you are thinking that the actors in your favorite classic films, action movies, or comedy movie don’t enunciate their words or shout to get their message across, like you are used to in their live theater. Well, now you know the reason why. While it may be hard to believe, movie actors, usually tune their voices down a nudge, so as to produce the best sound for your favorite movies.

  1. Viewing Angle

No, ifs ands or buts the viewing angle is the biggest and most obvious line of difference between live theater and screenplay. In fact, when serious movie buffs argue with theatergoers, viewing angles are usually their point of emphasis. A misconception far too common among theatergoers is to think that an onstage play, offers better viewing angles than film projected on a TV screen.  Which is just not true. This situation is analogous to a football match, where some people get to watch the football players, in the stadium, and others from the comfort of their home, on their TV screens. Even if you are sitting on the best spot in the auditorium, your view of the event will be limited. In other words, you only see the actions from their angle that is projected towards you. This is not the case with the screenplay. When you are watching your favorite classic films or out of print films on screen, you’ll see the actions from diverse angles. Some movie directors even make the screenplay more interesting for viewers, by using a slow zoom to highlight interesting areas in the movie. No doubt, you won’t find this kind of flexibility in the live theater.

  1. Time-Space transformation

If you have a craving for a taste of the future or the past, you’ll find plenty of both on your TV and in your favorite movies. As a theatergoer, you may never get to experience film tricks like flashbacks, time travel, space travel, space jump, and other antics that cinematography and filmography offers. Instead, you’ll have to stick to onstage plays, that have been performed over and over again by different casts. Movies, on the other hand, are more dynamic, giving viewers the chance to explore their imaginations in unparalleled ways. Along these lines, you could catch a glimpse of the future, touch the skies, travel to Mars, or party in the nineties, through your TV screen, in the comfort of your home. 

  1. Venue limitation

Most theatergoers will agree that there is no argument here, as we all know that movie producers pay more attention to their set than onstage play directors. While movie producers and movie directors get to spend millions on sets, which would only appear in one or two scenes in their movies, onstage play producers don’t have that kind of luxury. That’s why it is very difficult for live theater producers to create something spectacular, other than the Shakespearean plays, that we have seen a thousand times.


Screenplay and live theater may have a few similarities, but, they are two different art forms. Also, saying live theater offers something that we can’t get in movies or TV, is not exactly true. Based on the discussions above, it appears that films have a few more advantages than live theater.

Movie Buffs Forever stocks classic DVD’s, old movies, rare movies, as well as out of print DVD's from the 1950s to the early 2000s. Browse our full collection of DVDs and old classic movies.

Why We Still Love DVDs