In 1962, David Flexer, president of Inflight Motion Pictures, a company that brought feature films to aircraft for the first time, told The New Yorker, "air travel is both the most advanced form of transportation and the most boring," a sentiment echoed by all 12-year-olds for years to come. One year earlier, Trans World Airlines had screened the first feature-length film on a flight, By Love Possessed, thanks to Flexer's technological tinkering that enabled film reels and projectors to fit comfortably and compactly on the plane. The way passengers utilize their time up in the air was forever altered.
Nearly six decades later, in-flight entertainment is now a multi-billion dollar industry, projected to reach $6.91 billion by 2022, and rapidly evolving along with the technology and tastes that support it, from the installation of new high-definition seatback screens to the programming of the biggest Hollywood movies. What customers can watch in the air is a selling point for a major like Delta, which boasts about free access to hundreds of movies, TV shows, and games delivered via a seatback screen (over 550 of their aircraft are equipped with them) or the passenger's personal device. While the act of catching up with The Big Bang Theory or finally watching Oscar-winner Moonlight on your cross-country flight seems passive, there's a hustle happening behind the scenes, with extensive research and airline-approved editing ensuring quality control. The process of programming sky-high viewing has come a long way since Flexer's days of solitary air travel.