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Thursday, 3 January 2013

#8: Multiplex Murderers and the Death of Cinema

     An auteur once famously said “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” Apparently those people I shared a cinema with last night have never heard this quote, hardly a surprise given the incredulous response of “Who?” heard clearly as a pre-film advert featuring Sir Alfred ended.

What ever happened to people going to the cinema to enjoy the film? To sit quietly and take in the magic of the big screen? And not the smaller screen they have in their pocket or hand at all times? Do people really feel the need to update their social network every ten minutes? Or to text whoever constantly throughout the duration of a film? Has the attention span of our public actually dropped that much, that despite the astronomical film prices set by multiplexes, people happily sit on their phones while watching a film? It seems to be the case these days, and is one of the many reasons why I would rather sit in the comfort of my own home these days and watch a film as opposed to paying the best-part of (or over) £10 for a two-hour long film. I can't just be the only one who feels this way? That said, every so often there is a film that comes out at the cinema that I just have to see. And Peter Jackson's adaptation of Tolkien's Fantasy classic The Hobbit was one of these films.

Being the skint student that I am, my girlfriend and I thought it would be a good move to take advantage of Orange Wednesday's. This was a terrible decision. The line for tickets left us questioning whether or not we would actually get to see the film at all it was that ridiculous. Luckily the line for 'refreshments' wasn't that bad and we queued to pay through the noses for our bucket of Coke (to share). Queuing for this took almost as long again as the queue for tickets. This I attributed to the many people their who have obviously skipped dinner in their haste to get to the cinema, and so feel that they should buy a plethora of food that just shouldn't be consumed in a movie theatre. Hot-dogs; nachos with chillies and sour cream; monumental bags of pick 'n' mix and Pringles. Why do these people feel the need to crunch and slurp their way through every single film? Can they not be content with just a drink? Or less? Evidently not. This is not just an issue that I had to grit my teeth and bare last night. But every time I go to the cinema, thus giving me every reason under the sun to not go in the first place. Of course, a third of the way through the film, nature takes it's course, and the inevitable happens. People need to the toilet. This isn't just one person discreetly slipping out to the bathroom, oh no, this is groups of girls, or duos of dudes (presumably they need moral support when it comes to urination, it is after all a pretty difficult task) standing up every five minutes to go and take a piss! This becomes even worse when said offenders are sat on your row and make their triumphant return just as you get back in to the film and have to move again! What made this even worse, was people returning mid-film with even more 'refreshments'! If someone cannot sit through a film with a run time of just under 3 hours (which is almost double what most films are anyway) without needing to consume their own bodyweight in Coke and popcorn there is something severely wrong.

Going to the cinema should be an enjoyable experience, these days it seems to be an exercise in frustration. Another point of contention I found was people inability to sit the fuck still. The row behind myself and my girlfriend last night was all but empty, apart from the father and son who sat directly behind us. This in itself is not a problem (despite the empty seats) but when I have to put up with a child's legs in my back for the most part of a film, it rapidly becomes one. The 'ample leg room' most cinemas have these days is obviously not ample enough for a six year old with a gallon of coke inside him. How he even managed to have his short childish legs in my back and be able to watch the film at the same time is a mystery only the child and his inept father can answer.

Many people will say that it is my own fault for a) going to a multiplex b) seeing an early(ish) showing and c) going to the cinema on a Wednesday. This shouldn't be the case at all. I should be free to go to the cinema as and when I like and not have to put up with an orgy of crunches and slurps, the tap-tap-tap of some invisible texter or the grotesque sounds of someone chewing loudly on a piece of gum throughout. The blame can't even fall at the feet of children all the time. Go to see an 18 rated film and the chances of their being a drunken arsehole in the same screen as you are pretty high. I'm not complaining at the idea of drinking alcohol within a cinema, sometimes it's enjoyable to have some wine or a few beers while watching a film, but getting drunk to the extent you think it's acceptable to talk, laugh, and even on occasion, shout, while a film is being screened is absurd. This matter isn't helped by the bars that are now prominent within multiplexes themselves, and the fact you can just as sooner buy a gin and tonic to take in with you as you can a bag of popcorn is bordering on the insane.

People say piracy is ruining the film industry, and to an extent I am inclined to agree. But can you really blame those who pirate these films and watch them at home for doing so when every time they go to a cinema they're faced with a blitzkrieg of calories and idiocy? This situation can be viewed as a catch-22 on both sides of the argument. Would the owners of these multiplexes be forced to offer up 'family feast deals' on food and drink if people paid for their films more regularly? The answer is probably yes, they would do it anyway, irrespective that it detracts from the overall experience of genuine movie fans, and not parents who want to take their children somewhere to shut them up for an hour and a half.

Cinema is waning, movies are all we have left. Art houses films are left to gather dust in the hearts of those who made them while Tom Cruise is making millions from playing the same character in every film under a different name. Cinematic integrity is something of the past. All that's left is a slightly salty popcorn smell, and a bitter taste left in the mouths of cinema fans.