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.

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Retraction – Four Lions to be shown at Huddersfield’s Odeon

Earlier this week I posted to express my disappointment at Huddersfield’s Odeon for not showing Chris Morris’s latest film, Four Lions.

I wrote to Huddersfield’s Odeon to express my concern:

Dear Huddersfield Odeon,

As a premiere club member (xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx) I am greatly disappointed that you are not showing Chris Morris’s comedy smash, Four Lions.

I am likely going to have to travel to a non-Odeon cinema in a nearby city to see this long awaited film.

Do you have any plans to show Chris Morris’s film here in Huddersfield? If not, why not?

Kind Regards,

Ben Sugden

Well this morning they have responded with awesome news:

Dear Ben

Thank you for your email.

We can confirm that Four Lions will be showing at Odeon Huddersfield from Friday 14th May.

For showing times please see the Odeon website or filmline 0871 22 44 007.

Yours

Guest Services

So I was wrong.  Huddersfield’s Odeon are showing Four Lions from Fri 14th May 2010.

The website still doesn’t list Huddersfield as showing the film but I am sure this will change when next week’s film times are released.

Censorship at Huddersfield’s Odeon? – No Screening for Four Lions

Four Lions - TMNTEver since the multiplex (then UCI now Odeon) on Leeds Road put the town center cinema out of business, it has been a thorn in my side.

Throughout the end days of the 20th century my biggest grievance with the multiplex were the scheduling of films.

Often, films I wanted to see (John Carpenter’s Vampires, Species 2 for example) would be shown on one or two Wednesday nights at midnight and then closed forever more.

Worse, films that weren’t shown at midnight would be shown at times that just did not sit well with working hours or public transport. The evening showings too early to reach after work and the late evening showings finishing long after the last bus home.

Over time, the situation improved and for a few years in the noughties I was happy with the multiplex.

Some time in the past few years there seems to have been a regime change of fascist proportions. The cinema now seems to censor its catalogue from time to ttime.

The last time I ranted about the Odeon was when it appeared that they were not planning to show Watchmen. Whether people complained or they just hadn’t publicised it, I don’t know; the Watchmen did screen at Huddersfield’s Odeon.

Here’s what I had to say then (in a facebook note)

Fanatical about Film?

Fanatical about FAFF more like.

Why is it my local cinema seem more interested in showing disney-pixar-chick-flick TAT than anything worthwhile?

I used to love going to the cinema, nowadays a trip to the Odeon is an exercise in anger management and RAGE.

Anything remotely interesting is either spurned entirely or relegated to a late night showing on a school night.

They drive me MAD!

Why bother having a multiplex if you’re going to use half the screens to show how Dog Hotel and leave the others closed.

I know loads of people in Hudds who would love to see films like Watchmen but it seems the only chance we are likely to have is to travel to the Showcase in Leeds and its sticky floors and cramped seats.

Anyway, I’ve written to them AGAIN to complain AGAIN at their consistently poor selection of films and poor decision making. I encourage any fellow Huddersfuddlians who feel the same way to follow suit.

Four Lions - RSPBWell, they’ve triggered me to rant again.

I am a huge fan of Chris Morris (The Day Today, Blue Jam, Brass Eye), a controversial UK film/TV/radio writer/director. For the past few years I have been aware of – nay aching for the completion and release of – his latest project, dealing with Islamic fundamentalism in the UK.

This weekend I was told that the film, Four Lions, was to be released May 7th across the UK. I was over the moon! Finally, a fresh offering from Morris. At my earliest convenience I checked Odeon’s website to see if they listed the film – in my heart of hearts knowing that Huddersfield’s Odeon would not show it.

I was correct. The film is listed as “Coming Soon” but is only available to view at a limited list of cinemas, Huddersfield not being one of them. I don’t know why my local cinema is not showing the film, maybe it is due to the news of proposed boycotts; Maybe it is due to the cinema manager not forecasting a box office smash.

Either way, I am very disappointed at the lack of support for home grown UK films in my local cinema… my nearest venue is Bradford.

Memory

A friend of mine recently posed an interesting question:

Q. What would you say were the genuinely ‘zOMFg’ films of the decade of the nineties?
Q. Which are the ones we sat in the cinema and were instantly swallowed into complete immersion by their aceness, to exit quite genuinely in awed silence from?

My friend then goes on to suggest The Matrix and Terminator 2: Judgement Day as possible candidates.

Now I fully intend to explore this question and pose an answer but as I thought about it, something far more disturbing came to light. The problem is, I don’t recall seeing either of those films in the cinema! I obviously remember seeing the films, I’ve seen both films multiple times. My friend is blessed with an almost perfect memory, however the more I try the harder I find it to remember.

My friend has even gone on to remind me that I saw the Matrix twice! Once with him and another friend and once the weekend before with my partner at the time. I have no recollection of seeing the film in the cinema. I remember the seeing shocking sequels at the Showcase in Leeds but not the first.

I can remember seeing Condor Man as a child (but not the cinema) and later seeing ET at what I remember as being the old ABC cinema in Huddersfield; both of these from the eighties of course.

I remember seeing Star Wars with my Father at the cinema that became the Tudor and was eventually turned into Varsity & Livingstones when the multiplex (that is now the Odeon) put it out of business. I remember being offered the choice of a Choc Ice or a ticket to see The Empire Strikes Back – and foolishly choosing the Choc Ice. (I’d never had one before and was excited to try one). Thinking about it, that one choice had a profound effect on my life. Empire is by far the best of the trilogy and it was years before I was to see it – I think I eventually saw Jedi before Empire!

I even remember the last film my friend and I saw at the old Tudor. We were the only two there, if you don’t include the ticket clerk who popped in for a few minutes. I think it was Starship Troopers. The more I think back the more I realise how much I have forgotten from those days.

I remember seeing Interview with the Vampire, Coppola’s Dracula and Trainspotting at the Tudor – along with the only film I have ever walked out of, The Unforgiven (even that I may have misremembered, perhaps I fell asleep. I certainly didn’t sit through to the end)

Even recent films, I struggle to think back over the last few years and list the films I’ve seen in the cinema. Could it be that I’ve just pushed them out of my mind? Maybe its a mechanism that I’ve developed to enjoy the films when I see them again?

I suppose I should make an attempt at answering my friend’s question though. Of all the films I remember from the nineties, there is only one that left me literally gob-smacked. I remember walking out of the Tudor after seeing Trainspotting, wide eyed and slack jawed. I was physically stunned, it was moments before I could speak or probably even think.

I’ve felt immersed in films before but Trainspotting had tossed me around like a cinematic tsunami. Whether it was the way the film was made or the way the tale was told by the actors I don’t know… that being said, I had a similar reaction to 28 Days Later, another Danny Boyle movie. I have enjoyed Boyle’s other films, without being left as stunned as I was after Tarinspotting.