In film, audiences and talent shift from cinema to TV

Cinema audiences are migrating to television, followed by Hollywood writers, actors and directors, who look to the small screen as a place for greater artistic freedom and easier financing, say industry figures at the Cannes Film Festival.

"The Wire," "Mad Men," "The Sopranos" and "Game of Thrones" are among the critical and commercial successes on TV whose makers include some of the best talent in Hollywood.

And if a decisive watershed has been reached, it may come from "Behind the Candelabra," a made-for-television movie that is in the competition for the Cannes' Palme d'Or -- and is being touted as a possible winner.

"There's a lot of great TV being made in the US right now, and I feel that in terms of cultural real estate, that TV is really taking control of a conversation that used to be the exclusive domain of movies," said the film's director, Steven Soderbergh.

"(...) I think it's a second golden age of TV that's happening in the States now," he told a press conference on Tuesday.

The 50-year-old, who made his name at Cannes in 1989 with "Sex, Lies and Videotape" had to turn to US cable TV giant HBO to fund "Behind the Candelabra," starring Michael Douglas as Liberace, after mainstream Hollywood shied away from the gay storyline.

Douglas, also a producer in his long career, said television offered greater flexibility.

"More and more screenwriters go into cable television. Because they are screenwriters they also can be producers. So economically it's much more advantageous as well as more autonomous," he said.

The film's screenwriter Richard LaGravenese said television allowed greater scope for subtlety.

"For me as a writer, it's more exciting. You can have ambiguity in television that you are not allowed in film... at least in Hollywood studio films.

"TV is where a writer can write his novel. You can have episodes that are purely character-driven (...) that are just about nuance and about shades of the human condition that you can't do in film any more. So it's more exciting creatively right now."

Nicolas Winding Refn, director of "Only God Forgives" starring Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas, said the way films were financed in Hollywood had become problematic.

Over the last 10 years, he said on Wednesday, television had become more "satisfying than anything (else) around".

"I think that the way that things are moving -- because of the financing of films -- (are such) that television has almost become where a lot of people seek creativity."

Winding Refn also highlighted the changes wrought by online providers such as Netflix, which earlier this year released to its subscribers all 13 episodes of its big-budget "House of Cards," with Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

"The whole streaming element of it (television)... has evolved in a way where you get 13-hour movies now; you just cut them up," said Winding Refn.

Netflix claims 30 million members in 40 countries and a large chunk of the video-on-demand market.

Other competitors in the home TV market are satellite television, premium cable-TV outlets like HBO and Showtime and traditional over-the-air broadcasters.

Soderbergh added that he did not want to brand the trend towards TV "good or bad -- it just is what it is.

"The biggest beneficiaries may be viewers who loved to gorge on their favourite programmes," he said: "Bingeing is the new black."