If you've been to the cinema recently you'll be well aware of the anti-piracy adverts doing the rounds. "You wouldn't steal a car
", "Love film hate piracy
", "You're funding terrorism you piece of scum
" and other unchallengeable declarations. Before we go any further I'm not here to advocate piracy. If you poured all your time and effort into creating something special, you'd want paying for it to. But cinema proprietor's belief that their profits are falling through the floor due to film piracy is utter lunacy. Cinema chains don't want to know the real reasons people are leaving in droves, but unless they want to end up becoming another Nandos or Starbucks, they better start paying attention. Are you listening Odeon, Cineworld, VUE and the rest?
1. I love going to the cinema, but I don't visit anywhere near as much as I use to. And the main reason? The general public. The majority of us who go to the flicks are sane individuals, but it only takes one arsehole to ruin a film and these days most screenings have at least four or five. You know who they are; lets list the main offenders:
- The Talkers - Is there anything worse than someone talking during a film? If you wanted to spend the evening chatting to your mate, why did you pay to go to the cinema? The pub or the park is free, go there!
- The Mobile Phoners - Rarely have I heard a phone go off during a film; most people know how to turn their phones on to silent. But just as distracting is the idiot that sits next to you who keeps checking his phone, the screen lighting up like a beacon every five minutes. Why not just wave a torch in my face and be done with it.
- The Noisy Eaters - I love Doritos. When I'm at home rarely will I sit down for a movie session without a bucket of the triangular delights in my lap. But whoever decided to sell them as cinema food didn't think it through. The constant crunch and bag rustle of the noisy eater can drive a cinema patron insane.
- The I Don't Really Want To Be Here - Teenagers; they're so desperate to become adults they'll do anything to fight off teenhood, take up smoking, get a tattoo, fall pregnant. Most adults go out on Friday nights, but usually to pubs or clubs. The only place a teen can mingle with the adult crowd and not get thrown out is a cinema. So you get two teen girls giggling their way through a film they don't really want to see, or the teen couple more interested in eating each others face than watching the on-screen happenings. Just what I want to see after a hard week in the office.
- The Amateur Comedian - Warming up with the adverts and trailers, this idiot thinks the captive audience of screen three are there to hear his "amusing" quips about what's happening onscreen. These shouted out witticisms increase tenfold if its a group of lads at it, and fifty-fold if its a group of lads who've spied a group of girls.
-The Chair Kicker - Need I say more?
- The Dodgy Loner - Me and the missus have thankfully found a screen that is eighty percent empty. We've got the pick of the seats. So has everyone else. So why does the long-coated loner who turns up late sit down on the opposite side of my wife?
- The Under-Agers - Children make most things worse. Restaurants, swimming pools, holiday flights, waiting rooms, there isn't an environment on Earth that can't be transformed into Hell by chucking a handful of kids in. Whilst I accept having to contend with these attention deficient hellions during a showing of Wall.E (2008), I don't expect to suffer the same fate during Hostel (2005). When did cinemas start ignoring film certificates?
The thing is, all of this can be easily policed if the staff working in our multiplexes gave more than a toss. But they don't. We can't really blame them, they aren't exactly paid a fortune and certainly not enough to tackle a group of chavs intent on ruining someone's Saturday night. Who wants to risk a post work stabbing for £6.50 an hour? But all the while this goes on myself and other film lovers will be staying well away, cinema profits be damned.
2. If you're unlucky enough to have a couple of kids of your own that need dragging to the cinema once a month, you'll know the wallet crippling cost of cinema these days. The counter argument is that everything goes up in price over time. A Mars Bar use to cost you 20p; now you'll be lucky to get much change from a pound coin. The same goes for cinema. When I started frequenting my local ABC it cost somewhere between £2.50 and £3.50. Now it sets me back £7.00 to £9.00 depending on the type of showing. This seems like a fairly reasonable increase, until you compare it to the cost of home viewing. At the time I started going to the cinema the RRP of a new film on good old VHS was £12.99. They also took a long while to get released on home formats. Nowadays new releases on DVD come in around the £8.00 mark, lower if you shop around. And they usually come out the same year as said film hit cinema screens. Wait just a few more months and you can pick up most DVDs for under a fiver. Then we have the monthly subscription services like Netflix which are even cheaper. Suddenly cinema starts to look a tad pricey. On top of that we have the extortionate cost of cinema food. For the same amount of money as a box of cinema popcorn you can cook a ten course meal at home.
3. So what do we get for our extra buck these days? Well, cinemas are more comfy than they use to be. The chairs are bigger and have more leg room. The screens have air-con and surround sound. We even have proper 3D now (though we pay an extra premium). But is all this to be expected anyway with the march of technology? Its certainly true that people have become more demanding and less patient in the last decade or two. We want our TV on demand and our music instantly downloadable, and woe betide if its not. But in the rush to satisfy the "I want it now" generation has cinema lost touch with the simple act of quietly watching a film in the dark?
4. Dialling back the clock again, my early days of home film viewing were via grainy VHS and a 14" portable television. For the same amount of money that my parents spent on that modest set up you can now purchase a 42" high-def flatscreen TV and accompanying blu-ray player. Throw in a surround sound set-up and a comfy armchair and home movie nirvana is yours. The quality and affordability of home viewing has reached such a level you start to wonder if you'll ever need to visit a cinema again.
5. When I go to a music gig or rock show I like to be amongst fans. You know they're going to dance and sing along to all the classics, and its this atmosphere that often turns a good night into a great one. Similarly, when I go to see a favourite film or new release at the cinema I want to be amongst like-minded individuals, people that aren't going to natter through the trailers or laugh through the emotional last scene. Chances are you won't find many of these hardcore movies fans in your local multiplex. But like the underground resurgence of vinyl, there is a small but growing community of film and film purveyors that cater for the true movie fan. The likes of the Prince Charles Cinema in London, Secret Cinema, the Luna Cinema, and the Jameson Film Club offer the sort of movie experience you wished they offered at your local Odeon. They show whole seasons of classic films, in comfort or in unique surroundings, and for a reasonable price. But most importantly, they draw in proper movie fans, the sort of people you want to sit and watch a film with. The regular cinema chains are left flailing in their wake.
Truth be told I'd hate to see the cinema die. I've had so many great experiences sat in front of its glowing screen, and there really is no better way of experiencing your favourite movie. So many of these problems have easy fixes to. Too much noise in the cinema? Stick headphone / earphone sockets on the armrest that we can plug into, like you get on planes. Prices too high? Lower them, and make the the same amount of profit by having more occupied seats and less empty ones. I fully expect to win the lottery and build my own personal cinema before any of this happens though. Don't say you weren't warned Odeon et al.