The Elusive Perfect Cinema Experience….

One of the best things about attending the Raindance Film Festival was that the whole cinema going experience was a pleasure.  The Apollo Piccadilly is a lovely cinema, the seats were comfortable, the staff were pleasant and helpful throughout and the lights stayed dim throughout.  It highlighted just how unpleasant the normal cinema visit has become and why I genuinely prefer to stay at home with a DVD.  So what’s so bad about a visit to the pictures these days and what needs to be done to make it right again?

This won’t be a Kermodian rant about the evils of 3D or the loss of the human projectionist.  This is about the little things that add up to one larger issue.  And sadly it’s all about other people.

The problems start when we get to the cinema.  No longer are there separate queues for tickets and food.  Instead we’re all lumped together in one free form scrum.  It’s not about making things easier for the staff or saving the customer waiting in two different queues.  It’s about creating as many sales opportunities as possible and ensuring that the customers have to purchase their overpriced bucket of coke.  The customer is simply a cash cow and everything is designed to get as much money out of us as possible.  I’m sure that’s always been the case but there used to be at least some pretense of customer service but that’s completely gone.

So cinemas, I don’t mind refreshments and ticket being available from the same counter but please provide one or two tills for people who just want a ticket and who don’t want to feel forced into making extra purchases.

Then we get into the screen.  The seats are squashed up to ensure that as many people as possible are crammed into each showing.  I can just about tolerate that but I’d rather a nice comfy seat.  The real irritation in this room is fellow movie-goers.  I’m really quite relaxed about everything that goes on until the trailers start.  The adverts don’t bother me but the trailers signify the beginning of the cinema experience and should be respected as such.  That means turn off your phones and stop bloody talking.  I don’t care if your Auntie Maisie’s bunions are playing up or if you don’t like the look of the new Jennifer Aniston film, shut up about it until you leave the auditorium.  I paid to listen to the interesting on-screen dialogue, not your brainless wittering.

And while you’re remembering to be quiet, stop kicking me in the back.  If children in a nursery writhed around as much as people in the cinema they would be told off.  So I’m pleading with everyone to sit still and be quiet.  We’ve all paid an extortionate amount of money to be there, let’s try to enjoy ourselves and not ruin the experience for each other.

The movie is about to start.  Mrs Miggins and her noisy mate have stopped chatting and then the threats start.  Don’t copy the film.  Okay we won’t.  Turn off your phone – wise words.  Then we’re told again not to copy the film, and don’t copy the film or you’re going to jail.  Get out if you’re the wrong age.  No really, you have to be a specific age to be here.  And so it goes for a good three or four minutes.  We feel like we are back at school and being lectured at by a particularly mean Maths teacher.

We make it to the end of the film.  The audience has been only slightly irritating and we’ve enjoyed the movie.  It’s time for the credits.  Up go the lights and in come the staff to clean up.  Not when the credits have finished, or are even half way through but the very instant the credits start to roll.  If we’re lucky – when I went to see One Day the lights came on before the film had even ended.

I recognise that I’m a geek but I do like to stay until the very end of the credits.  I enjoy judging the stars based on how many assistants they have, I like to see if there’s any little extra at the end and I do like to listen to the closing music.  I know I’m not normal but I’m happy enough in my little nerd land so why should I put up with it being rudely interrupted?  At a recent showing of Fright Night the lights came up the instant the credits started which was annoying as the final frames were in 3D.  Much as I don’t like the format I still want to experience it properly.  We stayed seated, much to the visible annoyance of the brush-wielding spotty teenager who asked us what we were waiting for and wandered around in front of us cleaning up.  Thanks mate, you’ve got the hang of making people feel like valued customers rather than irritants stopping the  next group of viewers being herded in.  We know that’s your game.

Cinemas should give a little more time between showing and staff should never harass customers into leaving the screen until the full film is actually over.  And please, please, please leave the lights off (or at least mostly dimmed) until the credits are over.  We complained to the local multiplex about their policy of turning the lights on full – apparently it’s all the fault of the local council who are obsessed with “Health and Safety”.  Frankly I don’t believe that.  Health and Safety has become the default excuse for businesses who don’t like their policies being queried.  The lights go and the staff come in to minimise the time needed between showings.

I’m not asking for too much am I?  A pleasant night out with decent entertainment in a civilised atmosphere can’t be too much to ask for a room full of people paying a tenner each?  Sadly at many multiplexes I apparently do expect too much, but if a smaller chain like Apollo and numerous independent cinemas can manage it, why won’t the big chains?

What are your movie-going bugbears?  Am I being unrealistic in my expectations?  What makes a good night out at the pictures for you?  Let me know in the comments.

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  1. Chris Mason says:

    I’d have to agree with all you say, although I’ve not come across the “one line for tickets and food” thing yet.
    I too like to read all the credits and see if there is an extra at the end. It’s not nerdy it enthusiastic.

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