Why I Love the Cinema
I 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.
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.
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.