FMG Arts Monthly

Is it still worth going to the cinema?

No-one can deny the power of cinema, most of us agree that film has a unique power to move and inspire us, but in this tough economic climate, is it still worth going to the cinema? We are deterred by hiking prices of admission, peak time charges, extortionate costs of snacks and beverages, 2D and 3D screenings and online booking mishaps. On the other hand, can you put a price on seeing a film like Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave for the first time or spending your first date with your future love at the pictures? The debate has become even more relevant in the age of online streaming and Video-on-Demand.

Let’s face the facts, the cinema is the best possible place to watch films. Nothing can compete with a massive screen and a state of the art sound system. Watching a movie on the big screen is very different from watching it on a laptop or mobile device. Movies look far more cinematic and mesmerising on the big screen, especially when screened in the correct aspect ratio, whether it is 1.85:1 or 2.39:1. Though cinemas offer a bigger and louder movie-watching experience, you tend to get a certain unsettling feeling that cinemas have turned into quite soulless and sterile entities. Nowadays most chain cinemas use digital projection systems to show films, meaning that the film is being played off a hard drive from a computer. A far cry from the loving portrait of the movie theatre as depicted in films such as Cinema Paradiso, Hugo and Ed Wood.

Cinemas just aren’t as glamorous as they once were and I for one still love going to the movies but often my experience is not as enjoyable as it could be. After paying over £10 to watch a film, all I ask for is for the film to be projected correctly in a quiet darkened room. I am usually treated to an unbearable barrage of annoying adverts that I have seen on television countless times, then followed by an eclectic mix of trailers and then finally finished off with a rage-inducing advertisement for an app that requires you to turn on your mobile phone to answer questions that a caveman, who has no idea of the concept of cinema, could probably get.

I appreciate the fact that cinemas have to earn their revenue back but these constant adverts are a real hindrance to the cinema experience. I can tolerate the adverts and everything else to a certain extent, but I don’t appreciate a film being advertised at 8pm only to start almost half an hour later. In fact, in recent weeks, I have often left the house at the exact time the screening is meant to start and after a 15 minute walk, I take my seat before the trailers have started. To many, the behaviour of the cinemagoers is often the most crucial point in my experience and most audiences are well behaved. The only time I have had a problem with my fellow cinemagoers, was in a screening of the remake of Carrie, where two teenagers were texting all the way through. Luckily the film was so bad that the eternal distracting glow of the phone screens made little difference to my enjoyment of the film.

Where I live, there is a chain multiplex cinema and a local independent. The chain multiplex offers the same sort of experience not too dissimilar to the one described above. The independent cinema offers a completely different experience, both with good and bad qualities. The independent offers a more personal and human experience with the walls adorned by movie posters and lobby cards of films long forgotten. The staff are knowledgeable and friendly and the venue is as grand as you can imagine, having being built in the 1930’s in the style of a vaudeville movie palace. The screen is not as great as one you would expect to see from a massive chain but you get the feeling that the cinema is based around treasured memories and emotion rather than action-packed spectacle. Their packed programme schedule is nothing short of a showcase of lesser-known titles, foreign releases and screenings of classics. We are treated to Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, Roman Polanksi’s Venus In Fur and a screening of the American classic, 12 Angry Men.

Perhaps, the greatest asset to the cinema is its sense of community. They are very willing to promote cinema in all its forms, showcasing student projects, local films and participating in film festivals, which you wouldn’t get the sprit anywhere in the brand. I feel that the service is worth the price of admission but they cannot accommodate to the blockbuster crowd.

I am aware that not everyone is able to go to the cinema whether its due to the cost, the hours that they work,  or where they live, Cinemas try to fulfil everyone’s needs but often its is not enough. Some people wish to the hustle and bustle gamble of going to the cinema and prefer to wait until the film is released on the home market, where they can enjoy watching it in the privacy of their own homes whenever and wherever they want. A lot of journalists and writers, especially Mark Kermode, who wrote a book about the various problems of modern cinema, have written about the death of cinema, suggesting that the film industry has become something of a cynical and desperate business. The great auteur filmmaker Quentin Tarantino compared watching a digitally projected film to watching “television in public” and if that is the state of modern cinema, then that is what it is. Some of us will stick to our independent sanctuaries but the age of the blockbuster is far from dead. It looks like the digital projection and sterile mega-chains will continue to rule the industry for decades to come, forever battling the DVD/Blu-Ray and VOD market.

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