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The UK cinema experience

Much is said about how much money Film Studios are losing to piracy. You can’t see a film at the cinema now without the piracy warnings. Do the studios ever stop to wonder if that’s the real reason their profits are not where they thinks they should be?

A recent article on Torrentfreak got me thinking about what’s really going on at the cinema. The story concerns a study by the US Pirate Party, a group that claims the real reason for the rise and fall in annual profits is the quality of the films released, not piracy. If so, the ‘piracy’ claims are just hot air from greedy studios that want more money for releasing crap. It’s the old argument, people will pay a fair price for a quality product. The most amazing thing is that these piracy claims and measures are increasing at a time when US cinema takings have hit a record high.

I think there’s a more basic reason for the often claimed drop in cinema attendance. It’s crap.

I’ve already written about the film I saw last night, The Dark Knight. I visited the Showcase cinema at the Bluewater shopping centre for the first time. My usual cinema is the Empire in Basildon, where I pay £15.50 for two adult tickets booked online. At the Showcase two tickets were £17.20 booked online. Compare that to the cost of buying a current DVD to watch whenever you like, prices are from Play.com

  • There will be blood – £12.99
  • The bank job – £11.99
  • Pirates of the caribbean: At Worlds End 2 Disc- £17.99
  • The water horse – £12.99
  • The bucket list – £9.99
  • Atonement – £5.99
  • American gangster – £6.99

Not an exhaustive list, but all are from the current top 10 selling DVD titles in the UK. You can own 2 of these films to watch whenever you like (and loan or swap with friends and family) for the price of two cinema tickets. So is the cinema experience worth the extra cash? From my experiences last night I’m not sure.

Since I had printed my tickets at home there was no queueing so we went straight to the food counter. You aren’t allowed to take your own snacks into a cinema in the UK, so you have to pay the ridiculously high prices that cinemas charge. The Showcase cinema has 12 tills at the counter, but only one was in use so we had to queue for a few minutes. Not a problem, but it’s really irritating to see there are twelve people working at the very long counter, and ten are standing at one end chatting. Customer service?

I asked for the Nacho’s and drink at £5.95 and asked to pay the extra 95p to go large. When it arrived there didn’t appear to be any difference to the standard size, so I asked what the extra money bought. The indifferent reply was something about ‘some more nacho’s’, which didn’t even have the chilli’s shown in the advertising poster. I got the feeling that any further complaint would be a pointless waste of time so left the counter. The walk to the screen was across a carpet littered with popcorn. Clean is not a word I would use to describe the cinema. Once we got to our seats and brushed to popcorn off them the experience became one of rustling sweet wrappers, distracting talking, and a really annoying teen sitting next to me who fidgeted and tapped his foot through most of the film.

Seeing a good movie on a large screen with surround sound is an enjoyable experience. The crap that goes with it is not. At the Empire cinema in Basildon I have the option of sofa seating at the back of some screens, for £15 a ticket. Over £30 for Mrs Basshead and I to see a film? I think I will have those three DVD’s instead.

The biggest problem is that cinema’s only benefit, the scale of the experience, is losing it’s appeal to ever improving home cinema. The John Lewis store at Bluewater had the latest Sony 40 inch LCD TV for £999 with a five year guarantee. Last year’s 46 inch Sony was even less. Upscaling DVD players and Blu Ray will improve the picture quality to amazing levels, and surround sound equipment has been around long enough to be picked up cheap. What was the reason for going to a cinema again?

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  1. October 19, 2014 at 9:16 am

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