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A Quick Word On Multiplexes

26/02/2012

After an impromptu excursion to see Hammer’s new The Woman In Black at my local Vue cinema I was left with the crushing realisation as to why it was that I hadn’t been to said temple of gloom since almost exactly a year previously when it was the only way I could satisfy my intense and immediate desire to witness the Cohen Brother’s tremendous version of True Grit. The more observant of you may have realised that the majority of the reviews I post on here are of films that are available on home video or that have been on the telly. When I do make an increasingly rare jaunt to the cinema I tend to favour the local theatre/arts complex rather than the soulless shed that constitues the only other option in town.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m an inconsolable movie snob. I’m almost prepared to admit it. Even if I wasn’t though, it’s unlikely that I would be keen on paying close to twenty quid for two cinema tickets (that’s standard seating by the way, not the utterly pointless “luxury”, “executive”, premium seating that they would have charged me even more for) for the majority of films. Granted, I did (in effect) pay about six times this in order to see The Plague Of The Zombies at the Glasgow Film Festival, but that included return train travel, a night in a hotel and a hot breakfast buffet (not to mention being for a vastly superior, one of a kind film experience in a proper cinema that still had curtains on the screen!) but the actual tickets only cost me fifteen pounds for that. So what did I get for my money?

You book your tickets on the website in advance if you have any sense because you definitely don’t want to join that monstrous combination food/ticket queue that no doubt saves Vue a ton of money but really doesn’t provide a satisfactory customer service experience. Of course what you don’t account for is the presence of only two ticket machines that people who don’t know what they’re doing also use to actually purchase tickets rather than just collect them. Fifteen minutes in a queue, being frustrated by gaggles of people who are attempting to negotiate screen after screen of questions just to buy a couple of tickets for a film. All of which could be avoided by having a few people on a manned ticket counter, you know, like they used to have. I understand the economic advantages to the business by having to pay less staff but have they considered that the unnecessarily irritating process of simply getting your tickets is enough to limit me to one visit per year (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) and so is counter productive to volume sales? I’d visit much more often if it didn’t raise my blood pressure so much. With their prices I expect better service.

Then there’s the atmosphere, or rather the lack of atmosphere. There used to be a brilliant cinema in Inverness. The old La Scala was admittedly getting a little shabby, but its old school charm, red velvet, curtains on the screen and character made for a much more interesting cinema experience. I’m sure there are those who would argue the clinical, barren nature of the multiplex is a good thing. They are of course wrong. I feel sorry for kids today who won’t experience the magic of going to a proper cinema, the thrill of that moment when the house lights dip and the curtains roll back as the projector whirrs into life. They won’t have the wonder of shoddily assembled advert reels for the Indian restaurant “just round the corner from this cinema”. Instead, their movie memories will consist of half an hour of annoying adverts for mobile phone companies, crap trailers for crap films and threats of night vision surveillance before everything they ever went to see in the spiritless, inhuman box that constitues screen four. Or is it five? I can’t tell, they all look the bloody same.

The multiplexes, with their casual disregard for the films they show, have created a negative feedback loop with audiences too. I appreciate that this is generalising in the extreme, but the multiplex culture of not having ushers (often these days not even having a projectionist!) and exhibiting films in a crassly commercial atmosphere has rubbed off on audiences who seem to have increasingly diminished levels of respect not just for the film they are watching but for their fellow audience members. With no supervision, those who would rather take the piss can run riot without fear of repercussions unless, as I did when I went to see Zack Snyder’s 300 at the cinema, an audience member rises to the occasion and says something to the troublemakers (on that particular occasion it started a wave of anti-troublemaker sentiment that quickly sent the message they were not welcome and that calmed the situation) but really, if I’m paying a tenner a ticket I sort of expect, as the customer, that a cinema employee should really be carrying out this task. I don’t mind doing it, but I don’t want to pay for the privilege. That’s just the noisy audience members too. That doesn’t even begin to cover the mobile phone brigade who need their thumbs broken in my opinion. You’ve paid money to watch a film, so watch the damn film. I particularly like the response of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Texas to phone users (WARNING: there’s some bad language in this):

During The Woman In Black though, I came up against a new and horrific threat to my enjoyment of the cinema, in this instance the music leaking from the crappy headphones of the man sitting next to me who was listening to his iPod during a film he had paid almost ten quid to see! Now, granted, I think it was a defence mechanism as he seemed to be having difficulty coping with the scary movie he had chosen and paid to come and watch (it is advertised as a horror film right? It’s not just me?) and to be honest, I didn’t really have an issue with him putting the iPod on per se, it was the fact that I could hear the tinny hiss of whatever he was listening to on it in my left ear while the film was reaching its dramatic conclusion. Obviously I said something and it was heeded, the man wasn’t being deliberately annoying, just woefully ignorant but as an experience it absolutely boggled my mind. I mean why? Really, why the hell would you pay good money to go and see a horror film if you were so poorly equipped to deal with it emotionally (as a grown forty-something man!) that you need to cover your eyes and block out the sound with your iPod? IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE!

The whole shebang was enough to make me swear off the multiplex for another year. The Hobbit will probably coax me back and hopefully I can avoid any more iPod incidents but the whole experience of seeing a film at Vue causes a little bit of me to die inside. Is this really what we’ve come to as a civilisation? This offence against the art of the cinema? I suppose as long as they keep getting away with it there’s little incentive for them to change but I would put it to you, multiplexes of the world, that it isn’t piracy that’s killing the film industry but rather the grotesque excuse for a cinema experience that you are offering to the public that makes the thought of watching a film on a tiny laptop or iPad seem a better option than the big screen experience of the cinema. Rant over.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Iain permalink
    26/02/2012 13:10

    So spot i miss that place remember sunday nights when the audience actualy picked the film for next week. That place introduced me to lost highway need i say more.

    • Iain permalink
      26/02/2012 13:11

      So spot on even 😃

    • 26/02/2012 13:25

      The first time I ever saw Taxi Driver was a Sunday midnight showing at La Scala. I miss it dearly.

  2. Jamie Doull permalink
    26/02/2012 20:58

    You know, I can honestly say that your brief passage there about La Scala had me close to Welling up…only for the briefest of moments. Obviously.
    I have to say, one of the most galling moments since I’ve returned to the area was the first time I walked down Strothers Lane, and was hit with the sheer, awful reality that one of the most loved (admittedly, loved like your old, slightly stinky, possibly mildly incontinent dog) places from my youth, was Gone. Replaced by lego-like apartment buildings, with empty, depressing, soulless, retail units.
    La Scala was a warm, beating, slightly arrhythmic heart of Inverness.
    They ripped it out, and gave us a Pacemaker.
    It does what you need it to do, but it’s just not the same…
    Who ever poured their Pacemaker into anything?

    Great piece Andy.

    • 26/02/2012 21:50

      In fairness it had been closed for about four years before they knocked it down but I’d always harboured the hope someone would reopen it. If memory serves (I might be mistaken) it was never supposed to be demolished when they were knocking everything down for the flat development but they “accidentally” damaged the end wall in the process and so had to take the whole thing down for “safety reasons”. Always smelled a rat with that one. It’s a shame as it was all that was left of our proper old cinemas. I would have loved to have seen it in the old days when the entrance was on the corner of Strothers Lane/Academy street and there was only one auditorium. Obviously the majority of local moviegoers didn’t care as much as I did as they went out of business pretty swiftly in the wake of the cinema formerly known as Warner Village.

      • Aeneas Feggans permalink
        27/02/2012 08:57

        It has always baffled me that La Scala went bust to a cinema that was less convenient to get to and, even back then, charged more per ticket.

      • 27/02/2012 11:49

        I think that from a strictly business point of view it didn’t come as a shock that Warner Village closed the doors on La Scala. WV would have taken a lot of their business from novelty value alone. It also gave the illusion of choice, a multiplex with loads of screens (compared to what Inverness was used to) all shiny and new and exciting. If La Scala’s resources would have allowed it to stay open longer I have no doubt they would have seen customers come back, if they’d had the vision to do something a bit different, marketed a more cinephile orientated experience, they might well have survived. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. We’ve been left with a lumbering monstrosity and it’s all our own fault. Both of Eden Court’s cinemas are very good but they’re still not a patch on a “proper” cinema experience. I appreciate that nostalgia plays a role here too. I wonder if I’d have talked so fondly about La Scala in 1998 as I do now? (I probably would, I spent enough time and money in there at the time). Like the song says though, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

  3. 22/05/2012 23:23

    Reblogged this on Dangerous Meredith and commented:
    I am right bang alongside what Andygeddon thinks about modern cinemas here.

    • 22/05/2012 23:32

      Cheers Meredith. Sometimes I feel like a hapless misanthrope. Then I realise other people feel the same and I feel like a misanthrope with a support network….

      • 22/05/2012 23:34

        Well it’s time for all of us misanthropes to arise and reclaim our cinemas. I swear I really am going to break someone’s thumbs the next time I go to the movies

  4. 22/05/2012 23:27

    I have reblogged this on my page because I couldn’t agree with you more. Rant away. Your blog outlines the reasons why I hardly ever go to cinemas anymore. The audiences are a very large part of this. I might also post a link to this blog on the Astor Cinema facebook page. The Astor is a lovely old cinema here in Melbourne that is under threat at the moment. It is trying to be all the things multiplexes are not. Unfortunately, dickheads still turn up there and buy tickets.

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