The Death of Cinema?

The Death of Cinema?

This month, cinema threw a massive curve-ball right at my face.  It hit me in the face, gave me a bloody nose and then rolled on down the street.  Filmfella comrades, Lozz, Brown and Darren all shook their heads in dismay at my giddy child-like anticipation of what I believed would be the box office slam dunk for March – John Carter.  It didn’t do as well over here or in the States as I thought it would and this opened up a plethora of dissing and “I told you so’s” from my gang.
Now, don’t get me wrong, after watching it I knew it wouldn’t be a phenomenon like others released this month, but, what happened to John Carter made me think a bit more about not only why it bombed, but why I believe the cinema itself, is beginning to bomb as well.

(Picture removed due to potential copyright infringement. Oops!)

The death of cinema has been coming for a long while now.  It’s here in fact, marauding among us like a foul unholy stench reminiscent of a stale drain or some discarded used toilet paper, utilised in a hurry and then casually thrown next to the toilet.  The excitement that once went hand in hand with the movie going experience is beginning to slip away, not because what we watch on the screen has become worse, (Though this is a matter of opinion and perspective.) generally standards are quite high when it comes to the production of the films we pay to watch at our local cinemas these days.  The experience and wonderment that the cinema used to be passionate about has been usurped by an altogether more sinister villain.  A villain determined to suck all of the joy from going to the cinema.  A villain named Profit.  Profit wears tight spandex and adorns a crown of gold.  It hides in the margins of finance and rubs its hands with glee at the prospect of growing bigger and bigger, its dreams are all conquering.  Its strength is growing, despite a world-wide recession, after all, Profit is reliant on us and we, are not amused but, we still pay.

“I cant tell which screen we need to be in John, the monitor wont work”

Been to the cinema lately?  How much did it cost?  A bloody fortune I reckon, even if you only just bought the fucking tickets.  At my local cinema, in Wales, UK, Profit is lurking.  He sits in lacklustre surroundings where care and affection have long since left.  He spies his environment and scopes out his opportunity and before you get past the barrier where some unhappy, feckless and demotivated cinema staff person stands glaring at you with contempt, waiting to ask you for your ticket, Profit has already burned a hole in your pocket.

“Tickets please.”

An adult cinema ticket, even in this very unloved, once full to capacity Mecca for cinema lovers now costs about £7 before 5pm and  more or less £8 after 5pm, per ticket.  A child ticket is similar to the price of £5.60 and family ticket, 2 adults and 2 kids, will set you back somewhere in the region of £22.50.  3D films cost like a tenner per ticket.  This is goddam fucking ridiculous.  With the money for your family ticket for one showing, you could buy a basket of DVDs off Amazon, eat well at the New Inn, Langstone or get yourself a decent shop at Aldi down the road.  For a poor African kid, £22.50 would get inoculations for his whole family and their neighbours against nasty illnesses and if you channelled the cash into a scheme, that African family could build a sewerage system or employ a teacher all for the same cost as a visit to the cinema with your kids once a month for a year.

But, it don’t stop there either folks.

Fancy a small popcorn and a small drink, typical cinema goodies, standard when I was a boy?  That shit will cost you about £3.85 for the shit popcorn and around £2.80 for the watered down slop they put in their shit paper cup.  A kids munch box will cost about £4.  In that box you might get an orange or apple drink, some popcorn and maybe a tiny bag of chocolate stars.  If you want a hot dog, get a loan first, that shit cost £4 something for a large.  This is funny because there is a Tesco and a McDonald’s on the same estate, minutes from the cinema (that we shall not name).  Funny because despite prices being dramatically lower elsewhere on the site, with better quality and choice on offer as well, the hardcore cinema management cunts (Head-Office types that sit in their Ivory Towers) or the HCMC as I like to call them, still charge their ridiculous over-the-top prices.  They don’t give a fuck that business is about healthy competition, they just assume that if the punters are there, they will either be too lazy or stupid to buy elsewhere and since they are already there, the HCMC will nevertheless charge what the fuck they like.

Tars Tarkas: “John, I got a HCMC in my sights, should I take the shot?”
John Carter: “Fire at will Tars!”

This is where my thoughts began to unravel.

 

First of all, buying anything in my local cinema is impossible for anyone who needs to survive day to day on either small wages or benefits.  This makes up a massive portion of people in my city.    Profit doesn’t care though, he has you right at the door, his greedy grubby hands caressing every note that makes its way to the safe they keep at the back of the building.  You can hear him whispering, “mmmmm you are my special little notes” as soon as the cash hits the register.  However, is the cinema, despite its awful prices, a fun and worthwhile place to go and watch a film?  Good experience to be had?  No.  Here’s why…

First of all, buying anything in my local cinema is impossible for anyone who needs to survive day to day on either small wages or benefits.  This makes up a massive portion of people in my city.    Profit doesn’t care though, he has you right at the door, his greedy grubby hands caressing every note that makes its way to the safe they keep at the back of the building.  You can hear him whispering, “mmmmm you are my special little notes” as soon as the cash hits the register.  However, is the cinema, despite its awful prices, a fun and worthwhile place to go and watch a film?  Good experience to be had?  No.  Here’s why…

  1. It’s fairly clean, but in the dark, how clean is it actually?  Not very, I used to work in one so I got the 4/1/1 on this, trust me.  Can’t recall the last time they cleaned the seats for example, they smell and they itch.  When one considers the mountain of shit that comes off an average, clean human being when sat in one space for a short while, mites, skin, random crap, you would shudder your pants right off if you knew how many unclean folks attend the cinema, and how much shit comes off them.  Sometimes literally.  On one instance that I remember when I worked there, actual shit was smeared, all the way down the isle on every end chair all the way down to the screen.  Why?  Because that’s how some people in my city roll, that’s why.
  2. The atmosphere in my local cinema is inhospitable.  Why?  Well it’s because the air conditioning system in our local is arse.  It’s either hotter than Death Valley or colder than the frozen Tundra!  Why?  Profit don’t like sharing.  Why invest in a pleasant experience for your customers when you can charge £10 for a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s?
  3. Assholes.

You know what I am talking about when I say, assholes right?  They sit behind you, kicking your seat or talking loud enough for everyone to hear.  They love the sound of their own voices/phones and think what they have to say is either really funny, which it’s not or really important, which it’s not.  They come in late, make a fuss about choosing a seat getting in everyone’s way.  Assholes cant arrive on time and on the odd occasion they get the film wrong altogether, either wandering in 10 minutes before the end or half-way through thinking it was hilarious that they did so, laughing their stupid asses off as they leave, creating the same fuss as they did when they came in 10 minutes earlier.  If you get there before the film begins and assholes are there, you sit in anticipation, waiting for them to observe decent cinema etiquette no more than 10 minutes into the start of the film.  But, they don’t care about you, how foolish, they are like Profit, our villain, they are assholes, so they wont shut the fuck up and you will get more distracted and annoyed the further into the film you go.  You might not even know what’s going on in the film, but, you do know that Beth’s mate fucked some bloke outside the club last Friday and gave her crabs, that much you will know.  Why do assholes choose to go to the cinema at all, shouldn’t they just download the film illegally and watch it on their stolen plasma?  Nah, why be assholes in your own home when you can be a complete asshole in public?  That’s the asshole way, way of the asshole.  Assholes.  I once threw an unopened can of coke at an assholes head and I was warned.  I’m like, “I warned them but they wouldn’t shut the fuck up.  Heads up assholes!!!”

“It’s not your fault John, It’s the assholes, they’re ruining everything!”

So, back to the beginning of the blog, my poor old John Carter didn’t stand a chance right?  Gather all of these issues together and tie them into a feature film in excess of 2 hours long and no wonder nobody went to watch it.  (That’s not exactly true either, Foreign takings have boosted the box office maths up to the £200million ballpark it cost to make.  Maybe they got a cheaper more pleasant cinema to go to in China.) For many domestically, going to watch a film neither pitched directly at kids nor adults, despite how cool it looked all the way through and it being too long means John Carter was destined to fail before you even get into the debates of the merits or the failures of Disney’s big budget flop-out.

“Goddam, I know they said prices were going up, but, this is ridiculous.”

Years ago, when prices were decent and the cinema was a cool place to go, people would have gone regardless of the critics because, if the kids got bored in the middle, you could head out to the concession stands and load up on goodies and fun shit.  Back in the day, if you didn’t like it, you could come straight out again, play some arcade games, eat some munch and then buy another ticket for something else because you would be having a good time generally anyway and back then, it didn’t cost a goddam fortune.  Nowadays, you need to make sure that your going to like what you watch first or for all of the reasons above your gonna hate yourself for spending the money to go and be potentially disappointed for reasons more numerous than just the fucking escalating cost.

“Affirmative John Carter, I see a horde of assholes in the back row.”
“Don’t panic Tars, we brought our own assholes this time.”

Cinema is dying and John Carter, for me, sums that up.  If I was 12, I would have been psyched out of my mind to watch a film like that, I still was now and I’m 32, but alas, John has tough competition these days.  Xbox, PS3 and Blu-Ray all make for more fun than going to the smelly, itchy, asshole kingdom to watch a long ass film.

The death of cinema is here and we are paying for it every step of the way.  by @filmfellajames

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About filmfellajames
Film critic and blogger, part time rap master, loves UNITED!!!

13 Responses to The Death of Cinema?

  1. Filmfella Darren says:

    Well done James – you said what everyone was thinking. I love the acerbic tone to this. It’s therapy for anyone who worked in the cinema you mentioned – which is all four of The Filmfellas. I agree that profit is actually killing cinema. Go further mate, it’s actually killing the world. Look at the banking crisis, look at the fuck-wits taking the Grand prix to war-torn Bahrain, look at the fact that the world cup in a decade will be held in stifling hot , but filthy rich, Qatar; look at the American businessmen who purchased your beloved Man U like a spoiled kid in a toy store. Also, everywhere you look you see the needs of the disease you’ve labeled profit, consuming the resources of the planet. Amazon rain forests disappearing for instance to become mahogany furniture. Greed is destroying everything including cinema. We are in the end game of capitalism which – appears to be the 1% of people manipulate the system so they can have everything, whilst the 99% rot in the gutter. If this was the bible, we would have some sort of divine intervention right about now.

    Profit will destroy everything, not just cinema. It’s ironic in a way as in films, the profit hungry are usually villainous, greedy arseholes who meet their demise, say in Indiana Jones films for instance, or a Christmas carol to select two at random. In the real world however, they are the little men who will always pull the strings. The curtain will never be pulled open like in the Wizard of Oz to reveal them I fear. They have conquered the world, attaining the kind of power that a bond villain could only dream about. Maybe it’s because we have the super-villains but none of the heroes. Perhaps that’s why we love watching superheroes so much as the idea of a hero is pure escapism. We are not going to see The Hulk come along and smash those who created the banking crisis in the face are we?

    In regards to John Carter – it was the profit hungry who sunk the films chance of success with decisions like removing the ‘of Mars’ suffix to disguise the fact it was a sci-fi leaning film. I fear that the profit hungry accountants who run the film industry have taken such a stranglehold over production that if a generally fresh idea entered Hollywood, the profit hungry would panic as they wouldn’t know how to market the film in connection with something else that was successful before it. The profit hungry are killing the soul of cinema. I’m certain sections of the film industry is kicking and screaming to prevent the last nail going into its coffin, just look to the margins like world cinema or the American indie scene for sign that there are quality ideas still left to make.
    I remember the managers of the cinema we worked for were indifferent to film. They are not film fans – they are the profit hungry’s henchmen. Thus they were snotty towards, say a foreign language film because it wouldn’t make money, whilst embracing the latest idiotic blockbuster like say, Van Helsing as if it was some kind of deity from another realm. Profit, with its best friend commerce, are dancing and cackling on the grave of their enemy art, like two demented demons dancing around a freshly taken batch of souls. It sucks. I’m with you. We are as mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore right? You’ve opened a can of worms here – well done sir.

    • A great reply Darren, the death of the cinema is only the tip of the iceberg. It reminded me of a film script that i think describes it perfectly.

      American Gangster:

      It’s gotten so big, you just can’t find your way. The grocery store on the corner is now a supermarket. The candy store is a McDonald’s. Where’s the pride of ownership, huh?

  2. Great post. Hilarious and (sadly) true. The “asshole” part was especially painful. That’s mostly why I sometimes avoid the theater and stick to rentals.

  3. A perfect post. I agree with everything you said.

    “Nowadays, you need to make sure that your going to like what you watch first or for all of the reasons above your gonna hate yourself for spending the money to go and be potentially disappointed”

    This hit the nail on the head for me. I now spend hours on the filmfellas site, and many others searching for a film that i would be willing to fork out the 15 pound per person it would cost to see it (fuel, tickets, goodies, loose coins to throw at the assholes). I watch countless trailers, umm and arrrr over 5 different films, and when it comes to decision time, i fling my mouse across the room and think ‘fuck it, where’s my xbox’

    R.I.P

  4. Mastrillo says:

    Cinema popcorn is near 3000% profit for them but we always go to Blockbuster, a near stones throw away. Our popcorn and drinks we pay £4- 2 x 2 for £2 deals which are the same price as any supermarket. How long will the cinema last? R.I.P. Soon?

  5. Jenna says:

    You know you’re dissing Cineworld – the only cinema chain to offer a subscription package to Cinema? For just £14.99 per month see all the movies you like? If you don’t like your local multiplex, don’t go there but that doesn’t mean that cinema is dying. It’s lazy to say you love film but only rely on multiplexs – what about art-house cinemas? You know the cost to the UK if cinema dies? About £1billion a year to the UK film industry for one – and I would guess around 40,000 jobs, just in the cinema industry – never mind the film industry and then of course all the film reviewers who will be made redundant.

    John Carter failed for the simple reason that it was poor! You are the only person I know that actually liked it. It was style over substance, and damn right people shouldn’t pay to go see it – why should you spend your hard earned money on shit? You wouldn’t go to a restaurant you knew was shit just because it was cheap or buy a car that was shit because it’s cheap, or go to a shit hotel because it’s cheap, so I believe this argument is flawed. Consumers are a lot smarter now – hence the need for reviews. We review EVERYTHING from Televisions, to mobile phones to films. Without people reading your film reviews to make up their mind what they are going to spend their hard earned money on – what is the point of Film Fellas? What are you doing reviews for if people should just pay less and see everything?

    Cinema is an important part of our culture and has been for many years, and lets face it there’s not an awful lot to do around here and it’s still a lot cheaper than going to the theatre. The real problem to cinema is illegally downloading, then people justifying it by saying Oh it’s too expensive, or people in the cinema are annoying. Your an adult, tell them to shut the fuck up – my mum does 🙂 Films are pretty expensive to make you know? Distributors take the majority of the box office ticket price – to pay for the “awesome” effects in shitty films like John Carter. But they also produce gems like Drive, We need to talk about Kevin, The Artist, The King’s Speech – I could go on, all the money for these tickets goes into making fantastic soulful films.

    Cinema isn’t dying, and with the developments of IMAX and Dbox (both of which you haven’t mentioned) it’s around to stay for a long time. Cinema however, is a business which means fellas, unfortunately you have to pay for it.

  6. Amelia says:

    James it’s sadly true, Newport Cineword is in dire need of refurbishment and the great advances in cinema technology are wasted if the screens are poor quality, the seats are uncomfortable and the minimum wage staff don’t care.
    The big companies, not just Cineworld, don’t have good business sense, in a time when economically people are having to tighten their belts as the cost of living soars and wages remain low, they continue to put up already extortionate prices. People want to go out and enjoy the whole experience of cinema and don’t mind paying for it but it needs to be more affordable for the masses. If they brought the prices down even by a pound or two per ticket, a lot more low income families who currently cannot afford to go would be encouraged to do so.
    The watered down soft drinks you pay in excess of £2.80 costs mere pennies to produce, however companies and those employed above the shop floor of those companies will continue to defend prices and rip people off for as long as there are still people prepared to pay. Cinema is not dead but it in decline compared to the growing market of online movie subscription sites

  7. Sally says:

    Still love the cinema but totally agree it goin downhill…. The last visit I made to Vue, Cdf… I could have WALKED in .. the tickets not checked n no staff…. the toilets needed a clean up, and the film totally spoiled by an extreamly amorous couple behind, kicking the seat… (GET A ROOM)… Probably v.cute Daniel Radcliff in a tailcoat (Woman in Black) .. no comparison for a snog.

    May b next time just wait for a film to come out on lovefilms.com n watch in own comfy chair with supermarket chocs n nice wine

    lol x

  8. yaykisspurr says:

    Fascinating post! And so true, unfortunately… So many reviews now I read say, just rent the movie when it comes out. And I think how long can the movie industry last with this kind of thinking. Cheers.

  9. davies2k11 says:

    As Jenna said it is partly due to big producers and distributors throwing cash at movies to achieve excellent visual effects but not giving a shit about the actual quality of the film. Take Avatar for example, the film did exceptionally well, becoming the highest grossing movie of all time, without adjusting for inflation. DVD sales however, earned around 10% what it earned at the box office. Many people choose not to buy the movie on DVD or BluRay because they’ve seen it at the cinema, others don’t need to buy it as a family member owns it and others download it. The rest? The rest didn’t buy it because, aside from the ground breaking visual effects, that movie was fucking terrible.

    Hollywood bosses retarded enough to give assholes like Michael Bay money to blow shit up don’t really help with the matter.

    Of all the movies I’ve seen over the last few years, the best ones were the cheapest ones. The ones which concentrate on narrative, Mise en Scene and script, rather than how many CGI robots can be decapitated within a 90 minute time limit. These movies very rarely get the financial recognition they deserve. Why? Because the shit head bosses at Universal and Paramount think that we, as consumers, are stupid. We won’t understand these deep and thought provoking films, so instead of pumping money into films like Submarine or We Need To Talk About Kevin or Super!, we’re treated to a 5th dose of the fucking Fast and the Furious franchise. And even though Hollywood are well aware that these films aren’t the best (when was the last time you saw a film like fucking Transformers get a nomination at the oscars other than visual effects) they keep reeling this shit at us. And, unfortunately, as a nation we have become dependent on advertisements to tell us what we want, these films will continue to be made and make money for those in the suits.

  10. Ankor says:

    This is definitely an interesting blog and I enjoyed it, but I think the concept of profit has to be modified somewhat, as does the beliefs on how cinemas and the film industry works.

    Films cost a lot of money to make. Even a very moderately budgeted film of let’s say $20 million will, after marketing and distribution costs, probably be around a $50 million investment.

    Let’s take a big budget film, though. Something like John Carter or The Avengers will cost between $200-250 million to make and probably more than that to market. Let’s be modest and say $450 million (way underestimated, but for sake of argument).

    So the film gets made and the studio wants a profit. The studios negotiate with cinema chains who want to show the film. They’ll negotiate all kinds of crazy longwinded deals but the general rule of thumb is simple; the studios will say to the studio “when the film comes out, for the first two weeks we want 75% of the takings, the next two weeks 50%” and so on. The studio has invested hundreds of millions and wants to make it back and quickly, so the cinema has to agree to this deal if they want the chance of getting the best films.

    So let’s say a film makes $750 million at the box office (not many do). Right off the bat government tax has to come out of that. In the UK it’s VAT at 20% but in other countries it’s a lot lower. Let’s say an average of 7% comes off the top. That’s around $52 million.

    Now, the cinema and studio cut the remainder (it’s a bit more complicated, but let’s keep it simple). Let’s say the film plays for 10 weeks; 80% of the money will be made in the first 2-4 weeks, when the studio is taking around 60-80% of the takings, with much less being made when the cinema has the bigger share. So let’s say on average the split is 70/30 to the studio.

    So, out of the remaining $698 million, the studio takes around $488 million (you’ll notice already that barely covers the vastly underestimated $450 million outlay) and the cinemas collectively take around $209 million. We haven’t included lots of other things like gross profit participation and all the other slices of money, but let’s forget about them for the moment.

    Now, of course, the studio has money to make in DVD/Bluray, TV, merchandise etc. but the cinema doesn’t. $209 million sounds a lot but let’s do some maths. Worldwide a big film will play in something like 3,000-6,000 screens. Let’s take 5,000; but of course many of those screens will be in the same cinema. Let’s assume each cinema has 2 screens showing the film, so the number of cinemas is 2,500. That means each cinema makes £83,600 on a film that grossed $750 million, even underestimating the figures. Most films will gross 20 or 30 times less than that.

    Running a cinema isn’t particularly cheap. Premises are usually pretty big and pretty expensive, there are staff costs (minimum wage, perhaps, but still) and equipment, food, drink, bills, refurbishment etc.

    As a result Cineworld posted profits £33.4 million pre-tax profits this year. Let’s round that down to £30 million after tax. Sounds a lot, but if Cineworld has even only 2,500 shareholders that’s £13,000 on 100% dividend. Which of course never happens. Plus investment in new cinemas, refurbishment etc. has to come out of profits. Let’s say only £2 million is spent on all of that and an investor gets an 11% dividend yield (very good). That means, if there were only 2,500 shareholders with equal shares the average shareholder could expect maybe £1,000 annually. Now, of course there are many shareholders with much bigger investments, but you get the picture.

    That’s even after factoring in food and drink, which of course is the real problem. You can probably tell by now that running a cinema chain isn’t very profitable. Your leverage with distributors is minimal and your chance to earn money from the films, even the biggest, pretty remote. It’s not the films you earn money from, it’s the footfall. The drinks in the bar, the popcorn. Why do Cineworld run the unlimited card, which is a pretty decent deal? Because they make no money from your tickets – they want you in the building. Because if you’re not in the building, the cinema can pretty quickly become an unattractive investment, or even a downright lossmaker. And then they close. And then we have less chance of seeing any films.

    I think there are a lot of problems at all ends of the film industry, but the term “profit” unjustly conjured up images of greedy bankers, rich kids and snotty, arrogant bastards getting rich off your expense. No doubt this is somewhat true, but the vast majority of shareholders are much more modest; private individuals with maybe £20 or 30k in their portfolio. Pension companies trying to make the most of your money etc. The term “profit” does not always go hand in hand with the term “excess”.

    Now of course there is a reason to be annoyed. It is downright expensive to buy food or take a family to the cinema. Independent cinema has shrivelled somewhat at the expense of commercial moviemaking (that’s not entirely true though; there has always been mainstream and independent/arthouse). As usual, though, the blame must be shared rather than the “poor man” pointing the finger at the rich fatcat. As Jenna points out, every time you put money on dross and accept a film like John Carter or Battleship as “a bit of fun/something to watch” it sends a clear message to Hollywood that you’re happy with what they’re producing for you. So when films like The Hunger Games and Twilight and Transformers make billions, why would anybody want to change anything? Thankfully John Carter bombed and Battleship has been vastly underwhelming and I hope (probably in vain) this trend of eschewing total shit continues.

    Yes, profit can and sometimes is a problem, but filmmaking is inherently high risk. For 95% of film productions the risk is astronomical; even for independent and arthouse projects. This idea everybody is making massive money is a fallacy. Yes, Disney and Warner Bros. are certainly doing OK, but then by contrast they’re having to write a cheque for $200 million+ every time they greenlight something. For the average production company and average cinema chain, it costs so much to make anything back that they have to maximise every revenue stream, not out of reckless greed, but standing the best chance of making any kind of money.

    I agree with some of the points made but there is a culture growing up around the idea of profit that is based on erroneous ideas of what profit is. After all, if Cineworld and Disney and Warner Brothers are raking it you could just dump all your cash on those shares and get rich right? And if that seems too risky for you, you have to appreciate it’s risky for anybody no matter how much money they may or may not have.

    Films are expensive and most of them struggle to make any money; sometimes even the biggest. What sells most has now become lowest common denominator blockbusters and audiences have made it clear quality is less important than it used to be by virtue of what they’ve accepted. As usual, we all have to accept a part in this and all start changing to make a difference.

  11. filmfellajames says:

    First off many thanks for all of your comments and views. The Filmfellas greatly appreciate your input and value your opinions.

    That said, let me clear up a thing or two that a couple of contributors to this post have raised.

    It was not my intention to discuss the mechanics of how the film industry works, never was. This was a blog about feeling and how the values that we used to hold dear have been flushed down the pan in favour of turning a profit, no matter how complex or difficult it is to achieve these days. (Filmfella Darren got this, thanks Darren.) That would be an entirely different blog. What I was going with on this piece is how cinemas, most of them, not just the one we shall not name, sacrifice the experience in order to secure the cash. For whatever reason. Back in the day people took pride in what they used to sell and that translated into a great experience for the paying public, I should know, I was there. People in industries such as these have forgone the experience because perhaps the experience has become too expensive to manage in times like these. However, when production companies and cinema corporations still turn a profit despite hard times one needs to consider the following…At what point did it become o.k to just fuck the public? The people who pay? The people who love cinema that much that they have to suffer the indignity of having to pay over the odds for poor quality just because it costs them a lot to put the movies on. Ankor has done a sterling job in highlighting the way the money flows and thanks for that because it is a good addendum to what I have written, even if that wasn’t the point I was going for. I know how it works, believe me, I get it, but that’s not what I was aiming for when I wrote this piece. I wanted to make it clear that if everything is going to cost more, should we have to put up with a poor experience? It’s not my fault the execs at Disney spend money like water to make stuff like John Carter, It’s not my problem. My problem is being treated like cattle by people who don’t care enough to make it worthwhile. This point is the backbone of my argument because it used to matter, we used to matter, families mattered. Nowadays, it feels like we don’t because profit is all that matters. Like Ankor said, it costs a lot to run a cinema. Well, in my opinion, if the cinema aint up to it, then piss off and try something easier. Let someone who has the money and who values their punters and staff get involved.

    Look at it like this. If it cost a little less, more would come, footfall grows and as long as your not being a complete douche about the pricing, people will buy. We aint morons. If you went a little further and made it a fun and clean place to come, people will be happier, they will as a result feel happier to spend more, especially if the value was fair. The staff, if paid more might feel like doing a better job, might feel happier about working at the cinema, might make your experience a bit better. It’s not just the public who are currently getting shafted, staff get shafted first of all. It’s not much fun to clean up peoples crap and stand in front of people asking for massive sums of money for popcorn, that’s bad times, that shit will make a person hateful of their job, that’s not good business, I used to be the “unhappy, feckless and demotivated cinema staff person (who) stands glaring at you with contempt, waiting to ask you for your ticket”. Without incentive and under massive pressure often, staff might feel obliged to do just the minimum instead of doing just a bit more. That’s shit business however which way you look at it. It all comes back to how you get the job done and how you make the customer feel when they are there and paying. Simple, get that shit right and your #winning.

    As for peoples opinions on John Carter and Battleship and Transformers and the like…Whatever, just because you might be making your way through the Empire top 100 or have a fondness for Independent film doesn’t make you right about what you think makes a good picture. Speaking as a film reviewer who has seen thousands of films across multiple different genres and budgets I can safely say that it doesn’t. What makes movies special is the way they make you feel, positive or negative, if you felt something then that’s a special thing in its own right. I fucking hate Twilight movies, I think they are total shit, but young girls and soccer moms love it, it’s their freedom. That’s the point. Freedom aint free, but it should be special, not a chore.

    It is in my opinion that if the cinema controllers stopped whinging about their issues and started to look at improving ours, even if it pinched a bit, maybe, just maybe it would be worth the risk. Imagine, if they took criticism and made good on what people were saying, then what the fuck would we have to complain about? Nothing, we would all be celebrating the cinema like we used to. That’s all I wanted to get across. Goddamit, I love the movies, I used to love the cinema, wherever I was living, but now I don’t and that breaks my heart.

    Anyway, thanks again for your comments, I appreciate all of you.

    Peace and love.

    FilmfellaJames.

  12. Ankor says:

    filmfellajames I think you make some really good points and written the way it was in the above comment what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. I know what you mean in the respect that multiplexes can sometimes feel like a factory line, shipping customers in and out and concentrating less on their overall entertainment than perhaps they should. But to be honest when I was a kid I don’t remember it being a huge amount better. Cheaper, certainly, but not better. I think my local had 4 screens and I remember queuing down the street for ages to get into every film. I remember the food and tickets were cheaper, definitely, but the choice was a lot more limited and generally speaking the food was no better, though it might have been a bit less mass-produced like. There were less staff and I don’t remember them being that much happier, although I guess they had less to worry about overall.

    I would certainly like to see a better and cheaper service at the cinemas, with more of a smile when you get it, but I’m not sure there is an easy solution. I don’t really think you’d get a better service if you paid staff more. It sounds like it works, but in reality it doesn’t. You don’t get better service at a passport queue because they’re paid professionals necessarily. I think if you gave staff even an extra £2 an hour, which would be nigh on unthinkable, you wouldn’t really get an improved service or a friendlier atmosphere. Additional staff might improve the situation, along with a less corporate attitude towards them. The cinema should be a pretty informal place to visit and to work so it should be fun without losing the quality of service. I haven’t worked in a cinema so you have more experience and maybe you’re right, but I think it’s like any other retail environment; you’d have to start paying people a lot, lot more before they took any responsibility to improve service on.

    What I remember about my childhood is that there were less films, cinemas were smaller, and hence the cinema experience was generally a bit more refined and special. You might have a choice of 2-4 films a week and, as a child restricted to the old PG-13, that was probably 2-3 films maximum. I don’t recall going all that often but many people did I guess. I don’t know how many new releases there were weekly, but it was pretty limited to the number of screens I guess.

    I’m pretty sure the general public wouldn’t be satisfied with a new film or two coming out maybe every two weeks. The demand for film is still pretty high and even a passing film fan will probably check out a film or two every 4-6 weeks, with many watching a lot more and more often.

    Ultimately I don’t really remember my cinema being a lot better. It was smaller and yes, overall, probably a bit more enjoyable and relaxing an experience for it. And it was certainly cheaper, I can’t argue there. But I think there were drawbacks too. Less choice in what you could eat, drink and watch, a lot less showing times for films and a far higher chance of the cinema being packed.

    I would still maintain the problem is not really the fault of the cinemas but the studios and, indirectly, somewhat also the fault of the public. Piracy is rampant and whether or not it makes a big dent on the money being spent on films, it’s still a problem. Home entertainment has made watching a film at home cheaper and almost as good, unless you still love the audience experience and the biggest screens and sounds. Computer games and smartphone technology have changed the way we think about entertainment and offered alternatives to watching films that have eroded the money being made.

    Yes, I think the prices could come down, but I also appreciate that’s a tough call to make. If you reduce everything by 20% and it still doesn’t entice the punters, what do you do? Put it back up by 25% and anger them even more? It’s not necessarily going to be the case that lowering prices would guarantee more people or more sales. It sounds good but it probably wouldn’t work that way. I would still like to see cinemas try it, so I am with you there, but I can see the difficulty.

    As we speak, though, Avengers has just had the highest opening gross ever and is well on its way to become the highest grossing superhero film of all time, or certainly in that area. Prometheus is tracking crazy numbers and The Hunger Games also smashed records. I agree with you that personal taste is not something you can really bring into the argument except that films like John Carter and Battleship are badly made and clearly indicative of by-the-numbers filmmaking. There are plenty of bad films that do well, or should I say films I consider bad that do well, but I think there is a distinction between personal taste and poorly made products. I can sort of forgive things like Twilight or The Hunger Games because as bad as I think they are, I can see the appeal in them. But something like Battleship is indicative of everything that’s wrong with Hollywood. A blatant, frankly shameful attempt to cash in on a merchandising stunt where the film takes a back seat to the desire to sell you stuff. I had the same problem with John Carter; clearly poorly made, with an absolute focus on selling you aliens and little extraterrestrial doggies that kids will want on their lunchboxes or backpacks.

    What really is the problem is that there was a time when the studios made films and then thought about how they could extend those franchises into TV and merchandise and all the other areas. These days it is the opposite. When something like Avengers comes long it is just nice to see a film for film’s sake again. Of course there’s all kinds of merchandise and bullcrap with it, but Joss Whedon was only interested in making a good film. He made one, and it made lots of money. I like it when that happens because it proves that cinema is still a great experience when done properly.

    I’m going off on random points here anyway. Ultimately I agree with you filmfellajames and would love to see a change, or at least an attempt at one, but we have to vote with our feet or by talking to the exhibitors and studios and making it clear what we want. Cinema hasn’t suddenly become a profit oriented industry; it has always been that way and has always suffered many of the problems you’ve highlighted as a result. But now it’s threatened by home entertainment and other forms of enjoyment and they’ve responded; perhaps in the wrong way, but that’s up to us to try and stop.

    I think the magic is still there, though. I agree it could be improved, but I think when they get it right it’s still more than worth the downsides to go see a great film in a great big dark room filled with other excited people who are doing the same thing.

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