The relationship between cinema and punter is a simple one. Punter has money, cinema wants that money, cinema gets in a melange of tempting movies to prise the cash from our hands. Its a cold interaction but it is what it is, a general understanding I've made my peace with; running a cinema is a business after all. As a denominator I've even come to enjoy my standing as the lowest and most common. Show me a trailer where Samuel L Jackson swears, Bruce Willis scowls or Angeline Jolie gets her tits out, and I'm sold. Its honest, if nothing else. But every January something strange happens; cinema starts to lie.
For three months at the start of every year cinema goers have to endure "Awards Season". This three month stint turns the whole cinema/punter affair on its head. Suddenly, showing movies isn't about pulling in the greenbacks at all, its about purveying art. Out go the shouty, sweary, nudey, blowy-uppy films, in come the discerning, erudite, intellectual moving pictures. Goodbye Ted (2012), hello Lincoln (2012). The timing couldn't be worse. Post Christmas the only thing in my bank account is dust and I'm staring into the evil eye of a month long detox and diet. The weather is grim, the days are long, and work saps the brio from my soul. Its six months until summer and eight months until the festive period kicks off again with Halloween. Three hours of Les Miserables (2012) is not what I need right now. Two hours of Piranha 3DD (2012) starts to look strangely appealing.
Its all a complete lie of course. Remember at school when the Offsted inspectors were popping in for their annual prod and poke? Teachers would spend a week frantically dressing the school in academic accourtrements in order to bamboozle the inspectors into thinking that our doss-house junior school was anything but. Its the same when the Academy start paying theatres much closer attention during January in the run up to their annual back-slapping soiree. Studios roll out the big guns and cinemas have nothing else to stock but films for your grey matter.
Either the Academy is made up of senile ex-filmmakers with a three week memory or studios seem to think that those on the board will conveniently forget about all the other piss-poor money spinners hiding in their 2012 back catalogues. Life of Pi (2012) covers up the sins of Battleship (2012), Quartet (2012) erases the memory of Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D (2012). Supposedly.
The real fallacy lies in this turn towards the artistic. The industry would have us think that this change in heart is motivated by a twelve week cleansing during which film studios thumb their nose at profits and turn their hands back to proper movie making. Complete bollocks. Do you know how much extra money a studio can pull in from having "Best Picture" award winner printed on dvd covers? This strive for artestry is all just another ploy to rid us of more income.
Its not even that the movies that make up "Awards Season" are unwatchable. Far from it, they account for some of the finest filmmaking we see all year; Les Mis, a brilliant film, The Impossible (2012), stirring stuff. And the directors and writers aren't to blame. They're just happy that a studio finally gave their small-town indie flick or their heart string tugging biopic the time of day. But why do we have to get them all in one hard-to-digest lump? Why can't studios spread their high-art evenly across the year? Break up the hammer blow of the summer blockbuster with a tear jerking historic epic, and cut through the swathe of January period dramas with a gore soaked horror comedy. Because if cinemas are feeling the January blues as well, I'm sure not going to help dig them out of a financial hole unless they start offering me some variety in the new year. And if they don't like that, they best take it up with the studios.