Modern Cinema – Is it a Rip-Off?

Why I Love the Cinema

HertaI went to the cinema this weekend for the first time in months.  I think the last film I saw at the cinema was Solomon Kane back in February… or maybe Avatar, which we went to see in 3D.

The main individual reason I haven’t been to the cinema in so long is the cost but far greater a problem are the combined problems with the cinematic experience itself.

I used to look forward to trips to the cinema. The anticipation, the queuing and the race to get the best seats; all this combined with face flushing warmth as the lights dim and the trailers start. Reminiscing about such cinema visits makes me think of them along the same lines as a return to the womb (which probably says more for my psyche than anything else).

I’m not sure when the cinema stopped being the natal return that it used to be. I know that I haven’t been happy with the Cinema (as an experience) for over a decade now. I think it started with the inaccessibility of cinema show times and progressed through the general abusive nature of staff during the late nineties/early noughties.

I’ve posted before, touching on some of the problems I have with my local cinema: Censorship at Huddersfield… so I won’t repeat them all here.

As I mentioned earlier, I went to the cinema this weekend, for the first time in around 6 months. There have been plenty of films released over that time, that I have wanted to see but none have been so greatly desired that I couldn’t wait to see them on DVD.


How I Received Free Tickets

Way back in April I won a competition on my local radio station, The Pulse. My partner listens to their breakfast show when driving us to work, they used to have something called “The Headline Game”, wherein one of the presenters would put forward a news article and viewers would then submit humourous headlines; the headline chosen as best won a prize of 2 free tickets to the Odeon.

I can’t remember the news article in detail, it was coincidentally in this month’s Fortean Times. I remember tweeting at the time:

Just won the “Headline Game” on The Pulse with “No Mersey for Lost ‘Dover’ In Law” – story was about a scouse mum in law lost in Dover…

In true Yorkshire style, I have saved the tickets for the right film to come along.

As the tickets have a vague expiry date of “December”, I decided we would use them this weekend; the terms and conditions implied that they would not be accepted for blockbuster releases, otherwise we would have used them for Harry Potter.

Looking at the available films, I was disappointed to see that Burke & Hare was no longer showing. I therefore left the film selection to my partner who decided on RED.

My Recent Trip to the Cinema

When we arrived we queued behind a member of staff, who seemed to be chatting up the cashier.  We were greeted politely and my vouchers were checked in to cover the cost of tickets.  I noticed that the tickets were just under £16 normally, so just under £8 each!  That’s nearly twice the cost of a new DVD on the day of release (if you shop around).

I filed this thought in the mental vault where all irritating thoughts go and went upstairs to wait.  We’d arrived half an hour early as it usually takes that long to park.  Huddersfield’s Odeon is situated right next to the Galpharm Stadium and so competition for parking on weekends can be quite heavy.

Now a rare treat for me, is a dirty herta Hot Dog.  I love Hot Dogs, regardless of the lack of any nutritional qualities.  I even wrote a poem about hot dogs once.  I was astonished to see that the “Hot Dog Combo”, being made up of a foot long Herta frankfurter and a large Pepsi max, cost just as much as a cinema ticket!  The other “combo deals” were just as bad.

Thinking about it for a moment; I considered that, had I paid for the tickets as well as a snack, I would have shelled out around £30 so far!

Compare that to a night in with a rented DVD new release: £3.50 (is it? I don’t often rent movies) plus the same again for a bottle of pop and smart price hotdogs from Asda.  All in the comfort of my own home.

I digress.  Eventually, the time comes for us to compete for decent seating.  I could have paid a few pounds extra and got the premier seating; this is usually only worthwhile for new releases of highly anticipated films (rated under 18).

Lucky for us, Sunday afternoon does not seem to be a popular viewing time for films with John Malkovich in them.  We get decent seating and I revel in the synchronicity of listening to the voice of our local radio DJ, advising us to go and buy snacks before the film starts.


Why I Hate the Cinema

As soon as the curtains draw I remember why it is I hate the cinema so much these days.  After fifteen minutes of adverts – not trailers, just adverts for noodle snacks, cars and perfume – I’m ready to gnaw my own arms off to get out of there.

Adverts are the bane of my life.  There is no escaping them.  Even on my XBOX, I have adverts pumped at me.

Google mail: Adverts.  Facebook: Adverts.  TV: Adverts.  I’ve even stopped watching TV regularly because of the incessant adverts!

Now I understand why the cinema wants to pump adverts at me… they’re paid large sums of money to do so.  But so is ITV and Channel 4; they give me a free TV channel.  The Metro, a free newspaper, is given away gratis thanks to the number of advertisers found within.

So why, after spending £30 to visit the cinema, do I have to endure adverts?

If I were at home enjoying a night in with a DVD, I could just fast forward or skip through them.


What You Get for Your Money

I imagine that the argument for cinema advertising is that it allows the Cinema to keep such a low ticket price (Really! I imagine the people at the top of Odeon really do think their prices are low).

So what do you get for your money?  What sells the Cinema experience?

Since the cinema lost the appeal it once held for me, I cannot think of one redeeming feature – other than seeing a film on a large screen with surround sound.

That’s it.

Maybe the 3D experience (for a few pounds extra on your ticket price)  but even then, only for certain films.  It annoys me that films are being upscaled to 3D just so we can be charged extra for viewing them.  The new Harry Potter, for instance, is likely to be released again, in 3D.

Avatar was a truly glorious visual display in 3D but it was produced specifically for 3d presentation.

What else can the cinema offer for my £30.

The standard seating is too small for a piabetic of my size and even in the lush, roomy, Premier Seating you can guarantee I will be sat in front of somebody who insists on booting my chair regularly throughout the film.

The cinema is usually full of people (of all demographics) who insist on shouting at each other throughout the film.  This causes the projectionist to yank up the volume to ear-bleeding heights, which in turn causes these people to shout louder.

Finally, the cinema staff will often come and go as they please, letting light into the auditorium mid-film.  In fact, during one film (I think it was Paranormal Activity), a security guard held the door open and had a loud conversation with a colleague, over his radio – we heard both sides of the conversation.


Is it a Rip-Off?

I’m overstating my case a little, which is unfair.  The trip this weekend was good, primarily because the tickets were free and the film was enjoyable.  The auditorium was empty and people shut up when the adverts started.  This is a rare occurrence though, I’d like to think the cinema is getting better but I doubt it.  Prices keep hiking up and showings of my kind of film are on the decline.

If you’re not interested in Pixar animations or cheesy American comedies then the cinema has little to offer these days.  Even Burke & Hare has stopped showing, I was sure it would be kept on for a reasonable run.

For the same price as a trip to the cinema, I can buy a couple of DVDs from Amazon or rent a month’s worth from Blockbuster.  Granted, I only see it on my TV but I at least I’m in control.  No adverts, low cost and I can pause when someone wants to walk past me.

I miss our old two screen cinema in the town center.


7 thoughts on “Modern Cinema – Is it a Rip-Off?

  1. Ha Ben, the final rebuttal of a true Yorkshireman – “the tickets were free and the film was enjoyable”.

    But, point taken and understood. The problem we have though, is with the competition. [Perhaps you were brought up wrong? Others do watch T.V. incessantly (even bromidicly ?) and enjoy the delights offered at great expense by the cinema chains.]

    The competition is a) ‘nights out’ – how much will a couple pay for a few beers and dinner, or lots of beers and a night club? I’ve no idea how much a night-club costs these days but I’ll bet a few hours on the bevvy and a spell in the night-club would knock your cinema visit into a cocked hat. and b) (amongst others) a visit to local sports stadiums: parking, entry, the modern equivalent of a pork pie, a beer (or more) would all add up to more than a visit to the Odeon.

    I’m not saying that you’re wrong, I wholeheartedly agree, but we have to be realistic in out comparisons. If popular culture waited for you or me to decide what we want to do, or what we’re prepared to pay for, they would go out of business pretty quickly. Then, sadly, there would be no DVDs either.

    As for hot dogs – I can’t think that any would beat the Bratwursts available in most parts of Europe or (to my delight) at Nathan’s in Coney Island.


    • Oh, for a Coney Island dog… I can only imagine how good they taste.

      I do see your point. When compared to a night out elsewhere the cinema does look cheaper.

      You do however raise another issue which is that of Popular Culture.

      What is deemed Popular is not necessarily what I am interested in. Some but not all of contemporary “hollywood” is of interest but I find that our local Odeon focuses predominantly on merchandise heavy children’s animations.

      Obviously this is because of the money that can be extorted from Children and their Parents.

      But what about the independent film makers?

      Furthermore, with regards DVD (& Bluray, a format I hope never to take up) – is it really as viable as it once was?

      You can now stream movies from a variety of online sources, for the cost of renting a DVD.

      Still, without the revenue from cinema attendance the mainstream popular film industry will collapse and we won’t have movies to stream.

      I suppose my argument is that cinemas should be doing more to make the experience enjoyable, rather than relying on their existing (and limited) USPs (unique selling points).

  2. One minor addendum whinge – unskippable adverts on DVDs/pay-as-you-go cable wotsits. If there’s anything in the world that makes me pirate films, it’s lame ‘pirating is bad’ adverts that wouldn’t be present on a dodgy version and that you have to watch.

    Also, as I think Jason Manford said, “Don’t tell me what I wouldn’t fucking steal”.

    • oops – should be ‘makes me want to pirate films’. Despite the posturing above, I don’t actually pirate stuff. You know, apart from the odd galleon full’o’booty.

  3. Graeme’s comments made me think of housebreakers carrying large bags of swag over their shoulders! They wouldn’t would they?

    So why do I have to be repeatedly told that piracy is a crime? I KNOW IT IS, and – you don’t have to tell me the quality is poor, I KNOW IT IS. I’ve paid for the DVD, or I’ve paid to rent the DVD (which I think is Graeme’s point too) so I DON’T WANT TO WATCH stupid adverts. Previews? YES. Adverts for colgate, M&S etc. – NO. Adverts for piracy – get a life.


  4. Ben, Do u recall is March’99 going to see Starship Troupers at the Cannon? A town centre cinema no less! We paid 3 pounds to get in, had food with the film and went for a couple of pints afterwardsand didnt spend half of the £30 you mention so well over 100% price increase in just 11 years.

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