Let’s Go To The Pictures!
Let’s go to my local, the Everyman Cinema. It’s small and cosy and has just three screens, not 75. It has a snazzy bar. The staff are terrific. A waitress brings you food and wine in the cinema. You have little sofas and cushions. And it costs a fricken’ arm and a leg, transforming a night at the cinema into a night at the theatre, price-wise.
It also, unfortunately, has a dazzling Exit sign in the auditorium that blots out all the dark tones on the right-hand side of the screen, as if all the attention had gone into the front of house, not the cinema experience. Last night (at a screening of ‘Us’) the people next to me had cocktails, a bottle of champagne, pizzas, nachos, something else in a basket, then gins and tonics. They chattered excitedly through the film as if they were at home, and reminded me why I don’t much care for the cinema ‘experience’.
We were early, so there were commercials. I haven’t seen a commercial all the way through in about ten years. My God, they’re cheesy. There were also ads for ‘Exclusive VIP screenings’, which presumably cost more, but I struggle to see what makes them exclusive if anyone can go just by forking out. Surely this negates the use of the adjective? Am I overthinking this?
The fancy boutique cinema chains are a far cry from seeing films in LA surrounded by Mexican families with crying babies (at horror films!) or glue-snorting tramps in the sort-of-missed 42nd Street fleapits of NYC. Equally they’re a long way from the Vue cinemas, or as I like to think of them the Wetherspoons of film, in that they stink of stale food and make you wish you’d stayed home.
But home was once the place where you played your DVDs, and now the home entertainment hardware is being phased out by an industry desperate to charge us repeatedly for the same thing. Because discs mean that for the particular film you purchased a customer has been lost forever, or at least until the next higher-definition disc comes along. But streaming bleeds you constantly.
If you have no scruples you can download a movie and link it from your laptop to your TV screen with ease. If you’re a geek, OCD-ish collector-type you can purchase 4K discs. But if you want world cinema, documentaries, old B&W films, you’re still reduced to hunting around online bargain bins. The studio argument is, who cares about seeing Bunuel’s (or insert author of choice here) early films?
Well I bloody do. I’d like them to be given the same treatment that crappy studio releases get, decent prints, hi-res images, good sound, subtitles. They’ll do it for a crummy ‘Halloween’ reboot, so why not for say, ‘Tristana’? Well, because the economics don’t stack up. But given the choice, I suspect most of us would rather own the film than spend twice the amount seeing it at a cinema ‘experience’.