Saturday, November 27, 2010

Don't tell me to go to the cinema, Simon

Tonight we went to the cinema. It was a cold night, this is no longer a cheap evening, even at the Barnet Odeon, and because the Odeon chain's credit card booking system seem to have an an aversion to my web browser, I wasn't even certain we were going to get in. However we did, and there among the trailers and the adverts for beer, was a very polished commercial in which Simon Pegg and Nick Frost congratulated us for coming out to the cinema rather than just waiting until the film came out in DVD. Only in the cinema, they said, could you enjoy the film as it was meant to be seen, with a big picture and the best sound.

Now it's probable that when Simon Pegg and Nick Frost see a film it's in a nice preview theatre in Soho with airplane seating and proper projectionists. They don't have to sit, as we did tonight, in a room that feels like a strip club. They don't have to watch an expensively shot commercial for Orange being screened in the colour pink, proof, if proof were needed, that nobody is actually running the programme and making sure that we are seeing things as they are meant to be seen. They don't have to put up with the sound of the special effects from the Harry Potter film coming through the plasterboard dividing this strip club from the slightly bigger one next door. And nobody accidentally switches on the house lights fifteen minutes before the end. And is presumably so far removed from the experience of the customer that they remain on. The members of the audience just laugh. What are they supposed to do? Go off and complain? It would be a day's march before they found anyone.

As we exited at the end one woman was asking the youth in the foyer whether there was a manager she could talk to. He was busy doing what most cinema employees spend most of their time doing - putting carbonated beverages in a refrigerator. I didn't help her because I wanted to get home. On the way back my daughter said that the last time she'd been there she'd had to point out to a member of staff that the roof was leaking. Compared to that our experience had fallen within a range of acceptability.

Complaining about the contempt with which cinema chains treat their customers is as bootless as pointing out that people swear at football. Despite the blandishments of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, I shall henceforth vote with my feet, which will remain in the "up" position. At home.


  1. The worst cinema I have ever been to. Once I had to ask them correct the format; and once my wife and I had to complain about a rather drunken, loud patron that everyone else was too embarrassed to point out to the management. They actually had to stop the film, turn the lights on and turf him out; but I got the impression that (a) things would have gone on had we not complained; and (b) this was probably nothing out of the ordinary. A horrible, horrible cinema.

    I remember when people used to say that the cinema was the best place to see a film. This has been strongly arguable for about a decade.

  2. This is the reason (along with the public being unable to sit and watch a film without talking/texting/munching) that we now only go once a year now instead of once a week.

    Give me a Blu-Ray,Surround Sound and HD Screen and I'm more than happy.


  3. Have to agree. The cinema as an experience ain't what it used to be.

  4. Bang on the nose, Mr H. The best possible thing you could say about a cinema trip these days is "well the trailers didn't go on too long and no-one was on their cellphone all the way through".

    Thing is... I never remember cinemas being any better back in the 70s and 80s. I suspect they only got more business back then because of the 20 inch TVs at home having to wait for ITV to show the film with the swearing and nudity cut out.

  5. I can't bring myself to visit my local cinema anymore - This multi-screened behemoth that looms over one end of Southend High Street and which, this week, is offering a choice from a grand total of four films.

    What killed it for me was the talking, the answering of mobile phones and the general sense that once they have your money nobody who works there cares whether you have a good experience or not.

    Also the realisation that for the high price of ticket I could wait a few months, buy the DVD and watch it in the comfort of my own home without having to suffer any of the annoyances that make going to the pictures a test of endurance.

  6. The ones that swung it for me were the Lord of the Rings films. I saw them in the cinema and they were enjoyable. But, when the special edition DVDs arrived, shimmering with picture and sound that you seldom get in a cinema and up to an hour of extra footage per film, then I realised that directors were starting to look upon DVD as the perfect medium, not cinema. And, like b7 says, these films in the comfort of my home, lights off, sound up are infinitely preferable to the glow of mobile phones and reek of nachos that accompanies most cinema visits.

  7. I hate the way the chain cinemas smell of popcorn and hot dogs and nachos and cheese and everyone talks through the film and seem unable to control their bladders so half the audience is up and down to the loo during the film. No surprise then that I rarely go to the cinema now.

  8. I echo the sentiments expressed here and this is precisely why I now drive 30 minutes out of town to my nearest independent digital cinema which is a thing of beauty

    It's like I imagine one of those Soho preview cinemas used by the industry to be. And they show more interesting films.

  9. Realistically any employee even the managers can't be on much more than minimum wage. The cinema make jack from ticket sales and to fund , say 20 employees on over priced popcorn and drink sales can't be easy.

    Presumably this is why they all change ownership all the time. Illegally download everything until it becomes pleasant to go the cinema.

  10. And yet we went to our recently refurbished, independent cinema yesterday (Felixstowe) for the first time since the late 90s and had an excellent experience. Well, apart from the very smelly punters who sat in front of us too late for us to move as the house was full by that point.

    Maybe not as much choice as a multiplex (they only have two screens) but I was impressed by the space, increased size of screen and quality of the sound (and not too loud, which is the usual problem).

  11. Unfortunately, it is home video that has turned us (well, not me obviously) from respectful patrons to talking, texting, slurping, toilet-visiting slobs. The cinema audience thinks it is at home, rather than in what used to be - and should still be - a place of quiet worship. And now, the slobs are driving the non-slobs back into their living rooms. So the people who would be quiet and civil and respectful in a cinema are at home, and the slobs who behave as if they are at home, are in the cinema. Go figure!

    I am fortunate enough to live in South London, now home to its own Curzon, the arthouse chain which also shows mainstream Hollywood movies occasionally (Potter, Tron, Inception etc.) which costs a bit more than the Odeon next door, but which, although much smaller, provides better seats, better staff, better food and drink, better sound and picture, and - I hate to say it - quieter punters, presumably because they have paid a bit more and are not going to waste it by talking or being a twat. This is sad, really.