There’s been a lot on this blog recently about the various problems with multiplex mentality in Britain’s cinemas. I wrote about the terrible audiences that forced me to leave a screening of The Conjuring.
After a retweet from wonderful film critic Mark Kermode, the post got a lot of traction and over 150 comments. Overwhelmingly, people agreed with me that multiplex cinemas are increasingly plagued by audiences who just don’t care.
This notion was furthered in a guest post from Ben Tyrer about the difficulty of seeing indie films in Bournemouth. It seems that multiplex cinemas are content to play inane films to inane audiences. But these aren’t the only problems with multiplex culture. Here are my top ten bugbears about the way in which cinema audiences work.
10. Cutting it fine
The process of booking a cinema ticket is laborious and slow. Everyone knows that. It takes ages for the tills to process ticket bookings and, often, the same counter is used for refreshment purposes, which adds even more time again.
With all of this in mind, it is absolutely baffling that multiplex cinemas will regularly open their box offices only five minutes before the first screening of the day. It means that, if anyone at all is in front of you in the queue, you have to run into the film and rustle your way through the trailers.
9. “Excuse me, you’re in my seat”
In principle, allocating everyone in a cinema their own seat – much like a theatre – is a good idea. However, due to the lack of ushers (which we’ll come to later) no-one abides by this system. This means that, as soon as someone decides to shift another customer out of their allocated seat, a game of musical chairs ensues. Everyone is forced to shuffle around until some approximation of correct seating arises.
It’s particularly annoying when all of this shuffling is instigated by someone who has arrived five minutes into the film.
8. The never-ending adverts
This has been a source of ridicule towards multiplex cinemas for a long time, but it’s getting worse. Not only do the adverts and trailers now go on for almost half an hour, they are on hard rotation.
Reviewing films means that I go to the cinema a few times every week. On every visit, I see almost exactly the same adverts and thus become really bored of them. That Kevin Bacon EE ad with the conga line is etched into my brain forever.
7. Premier seating
When it was first introduced to multiplex cinemas, this looked like a good idea. For people who are willing to pay a few pounds extra, there were some bigger, more comfortable seats available. However, over time, the amount of space in each screen devoted to premier seating has increased to ridiculous levels.
It is now completely normal to have to travel almost right to the back of a cinema screen in order to access the standard seats. In almost every screening I go to, people are packed into two or three standard rows like sardines, whilst seven or eight rows of premier seating lie empty.
6. Loadsa money!
This is another one that seems to be getting worse. At the time of writing, an adult ticket at peak time for a film at the Odeon Leicester Square costs £13. When you factor in the cost of food and drink, it could come to as much as £20 for one person to see a film. And then when you consider added charges for 3D, it gets crazy.
Outside of London, the situation is a little better. However, it’s still not uncommon to leave the cinema £15 lighter than when you walk in. It’s little wonder that people are turning to piracy when a trip to the cinema is so expensive.
5. When it comes to the crunch
This is a big one. Multiplex cinemas seem very keen to sell customers all manner of incredibly loud foods with which to supplement their viewing experience. Popcorn, crisps, sweets and, inexplicably, nachos are all regular fixtures in multiplex foyers across the country.
In addition to this, the ludicrous pricing mentioned above is forcing people to bring their own food to the movies with them. This of course all comes in rustling packets and bags, then crunches at a volume that renders even the surround sound system inaudible.
As the Wittertainment Code of Conduct suggests, cinema snacks should be kept to the volume of a soft roll. The multiplex cinemas themselves should not be encouraging otherwise. Nachos, for God’s sake! Nachos!
4. Iron Man? Again
I know everyone wants to see the latest Marvel movie and far fewer people want to see a foreign language art film or a quirky indie. But there’s no need for that Marvel movie to be playing ten times a day in four or five different screens. One of those screens could be showing something a bit different.
Multiplex cinemas should be doing their best to promote film in all of its forms to the masses. Give them what they know they want, by all means, but also give them what they don’t know they want yet. And then, when they know they want it, give them more of it. Yes? Good.
3. It has to be in 3D, right?
Annoyingly, this particular wave of 3D movies seems rather persistent. After Avatar and other such successes, film studios are very keen to stick a couple of extra pounds on the ticket price in exchange for a few things poking out of the screen. Often, there is a complete absence of 2D screenings for certain films.
The box office hopes of the long-awaited Dredd movie were pretty much sunk by the fact that it screened only in 3D and that brilliant film is now unlikely to get the sequel that it deserves.
3D adds absolutely nothing to cinema and is just an expensive way of making the film 30% darker. It needs to die. Very soon.
2. Dude, where’s my ushers?
As my visit to The Conjuring showed, cinema audiences are more unruly now than ever before. But unfortunately, in an effort to keep costs down, the cinema usher is now almost a thing of the past.
Where once an usher would be there to guide people to their allocated seats and shush people who were misbehaving, this is now left to the audience. This is one of the biggest issues with multiplex cinemas at the moment. Without staff, it is impossible for cinemas to actually police their screenings adequately. And without adequate policing, audiences don’t tend to behave as they should.
1. The Blackberry Illuminations
Mobile phones. They are a ubiquitous part of modern life and rapidly they are becoming a ubiquitous part of the multiplex cinema experience. It’s depressingly common to see the telltale lit up face of a fellow cinemagoer as they cling desperately to their mobile device.
The bottom line for me is that, if you can’t separate yourself from your phone for a couple of hours, you shouldn’t be in the cinema. And if you actually answer a phone call in the cinema, you and I shall never be friends.
Do you agree with my list? Are there any other trends in multiplex cinema that you dislike? Let me know in the comments section below.