I blame Orange Wednesdays.
Okay, I’m going to take a step back for a minute from that statement to explain how I’ve arrived at it. I love the cinema. I love movies and films, and that’s probably the reason I love the cinema. For me going to the cinema is that extra special something that’s added on to a film that you don’t get from watching a film in your armchair at home on the TV, but it’s hard to put a finger on it. I mean, I don’t usually buy sweets or popcorn when I go to see a film at the cinema, I just love being there – the atmosphere is very comforting, and inviting – you know that the majority of the people there haven’t seen the film you’re about to watch and they’ve paid money, just like you have, to go and see that film. They share that want to be entertained, to be awestruck and most of all to have an emotion provoked in them.
When I first started University (and don’t quote me on these prices, they’re just what I can remember) I could go and see a film for about £3. Before University, during sixth form, I used to go to the cinema with a few mates for an afternoon and see a few films back to back, and we weren’t alone – there were quite a few other people that seemed to be doing the same. We did it because it was a very rewardable way to spend the measly wages I earned on my McDonald’s salary, and it was accessible to all of my friends – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like going to the cinema.
Steadily, since I started University (in 2004) the prices of going to see a film, have increased incredibly fast – at my local Vue cinema, you’re looking at paying £7.50 to see a film. I think this price increase is absolutely disgusting, because it’s turning what was an affordable and thoroughly enjoyable pastime into something you now have to budget for. I remember seeing a spokesperson from Vue Cinemas talking to the stock exchange programme on BBC Breakfast one morning this year, and he actually had the guts to compare the cost of a family ticket to the cost for the family to go to an amusement park – this is wrong on so many levels, but mostly because this is how the people who are running the cinemas actually think about the consumer!* To put it into a context you might not have thought about – DVD’s have been dropping in price since their inception, and a lot of DVD’s RRP is not much more than £10, and give it a few months, and I bet you that DVD will be less than a tenner. The fact that, if you can, just ignore the film and it’s over hype while it’s in the cinema, and rent/buy it for cheaper 6 months down the line when it’s released on DVD, amazes me how a cinema could keep on going. And indeed, this is true – I bet you can’t name one cinema that regards itself as independent any more; you only know of a chain of cinemas – or at least this is the case in South Wales. Taliesin Arts Centre in the University is independent but it shows a select number of films 6 months after their nationwide release on one showing only, so I don’t really count that.
I can fondly recall going to a cinema to see re-runs of films on the big screen. For example, my first experience of Pulp Fiction was on the big screen, and the cinema was packed with Tarantino fans who were there for an even stronger version of the reason I gave above; because they were passionate about films. It’s the only occurrence of being in a cinema when an applause at the end of it did not seem cheesy or tacky, and gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. The meeting in the bar area of the cinema afterwards was also pleasant, where movie lovers alike could sit and chat about their hobby, felt relaxed and welcoming; after all it’s the cinema’s business to support interest in films, which I am sad to say doesn’t seem to exist in today’s cinemas – especially not the Vue and the Odeon in Swansea – they just want to shovel as many people through as quickly (at least as slowly as the 2 staff members care to get you served) as possible.
Out of the major cinema chains, I would lie most allegiance with Cineworld cinemas (I used to frequent both the Newport and the Cardiff multiplexes – sadly there isn’t one in Swansea) because they held re-runs, have the best sound quality in general and have much better offers for the consumer. As far as I know, the cinema I used to visit in Newport has HD screens in every screen, and you get the feeling unlike Vue and Odeon that they do care (at least a little bit) about cinema and the technology that supports the industry. Cineworld also offer their purchasable unlimited card which costs £15 a month (well, £180 a year) for access to as many films as you can possibly see – something that Vue and Odeon do not offer of a similar value. Having said this, in all fairness to Vue I know they offer special screenings of popular televised events, such as the Red Bull X-Fighters, and coverage of the six nations rugby games, which is a decent way to use the screens – but is that much different to going to see it on a big screen at a rugby club or a Walkabout club? Seems like a way to make more money if you cut away the customer experience.
If you could have said 10 years ago that one company will be able to change the way the mainstream audience experiences the cinema, you would probably be told you were nuts. But now, Wednesdays have been ruined as a cinema-going experience – not that I mind a busy cinema, in fact I rather enjoy seeing so many people wanting to join in with the same hobby as me. Orange’s 2-for-1 offer on a Wednesday has created a way to let people visit the cinema for what they think is cheap and therefore not share the same respect for the experience as other cinema goers. (If you want to know why I’m being such a snob, it’s because I agree to Wittertainment’s Code of Conduct). It doesn’t help that the local Vue doesn’t account for the increased audience numbers and doesn’t hire the right amount of staff, adding to the already irritating experience. Not only do you have to get there in more time to account for the queues, but you also more likely to have a crap seat. I just no longer see the attraction in going on a Wednesday.
To be continued…
*I tried so hard to find evidence of the guy talking about this, but I couldn’t. If only there were a way to look for things on the Internet…