Cinema-going reality check

Mark has stopped going to the cinema, yet he still adores movies. Have the mobile phone-wielding drunken brats put you off too?

The Tingler: a true cinematic experience

Can you remember the first really good movie you saw at the cinema? What was so memorable about it? Was it as scene, or a character or a line? Or, by any chance was it the audience around you, and how they responded to it?

Myself, I’ll admit to having been to average or even poor movies in cinematic terms, but have enjoyed them because of the reactions they got. It isn’t much of a leap to say that the more reaction a film gets out of the cinema audience, the more likely they’re going to say good things about it to others, improving the word-of-mouth sales.

This isn’t rocket science, exactly. The movie industry in the 40s and 50s knew this, and devised all sorts of things to make the experience more interesting. These ranged from all the formats, like CinemaScope and Panavision, through the various experiments with 3D and even novelty technology like the under seat buzzers used with The Tingler. Most got a generally brief, if memorable reaction.

So why am I talking about this now? Because I’ve completely stopped actually going to the cinema to see movies. I’m just not enjoying it any more. That doesn’t mean I don’t like movies, I’ll watch them at home on DVD or HD, or when they’re on TV, but currently I’m done with the cinema, period.

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Why? It’s a combination of things, but mainly it’s actually other people there who rather than adding to the experience, detract massively from it. Because they can’t shut up, or turn their mobile phones off, or they’re drunk, on drugs, hormone impaired or are unaccompanied brats. The screens don’t help themselves either. Cinema audiences are shrinking, so they won’t throw people out which conversely makes them shrink even more.

But if you follow the news and papers you’d get an entirely different perspective on what’s going wrong: it’s piracy! If the MPAA want to believe that, fine, but it’s so far from the truth it’s not even funny. What they desperately need to do is enhance the experience, not clap in irons idiots who try to record the whole of Spider-Man 3 on their mobile phone. That also means not gouging people for snacks at three times what it costs elsewhere, or having the nerve to tell people they can’t bring their own.

That’s not to say cinemas can’t get more money out of people: how about giving people a voucher when they see a movie that gives them a discount off the DVD release, and getting a slice of that? How about if you have a group booking of six or eight people you get the DVD for free? Or even a free ticket for another screening?

I’d suggest more, but I don’t think anyone in this business is listening. They’re getting nervous because the release date for DVDs is getting progressively closer to the film release, and at some point they’ll be simultaneous. When that day comes people like me who don’t like the experience they’re offering will not return, and screens will shut. And when that happens they’ll blame pirates or their own customers for having not supported them.

These events almost as predictable as some of the movies they show, so when is someone in this business going to wake up and realise they’ve got to do more?