I used to love going to the movies. I mean, it’s great watching a flick at home, with friends, where it’s OK to laugh and chat while the film unfolds. But sometimes you just want that big-screen experience, right? Sometimes a movie comes out that you’re just so excited about, you simply have to go and see it on a whopping great screen with a large popcorn and a room full of other excited enthusiasts, right?
Wrong. The cinema experience (in the UK at least) is being killed. Or more accurately, it is very slowly committing suicide. Last night I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, a brilliantly enjoyable action blitz, but I’m not going to review that here. Instead what I’m reviewing is the cinema itself. And here’s what’s wrong:
1) Apparently I bought a platinum plated-ticket forged by the fair hands of a Peruvian forest nymph.
OK, let’s deal with the elephant in the room, first. Myself and my wife walked into the cinema, and asked for two tickets to the 3D showing of the movie, one ice blast (a cup full of cold sugar) and a Coke (basically the same), we also required 3D glasses which come at additional cost. The total expenditure for two tickets and two drinks… £33.98. I mean… What? I nearly swallowed my tongue as my wife handed over her card. The ONLY thing that made this bearable was that the majority of the cost was being covered by a gift voucher we received for Christmas. I could wax on about the sheer number of other items or experiences that £33.98 could net you, but you have a strong enough imagination, so I’ll just leave this here. It was bloody expensive.
But hell, it’s got to be worth it for the cinema experience, right?
2) I’m a
Cinema seating is staged, this has always been the case. The seats at the back are on a higher elevation to the seats at the front. Well, in this particular screen (and all screens at this cinema) the tapered seating lasts for four rows, before the seats get quite low, and you have to tilt your neck backwards to see the screen. Hey, no problem though, you can just sit in one of these higher tiered seats to get around the issue, right?
These are “VIP” seats. If the regular cost of the movie wasn’t bad enough, each one of these bad boys come at an additional £2 premium. For this, you get additional leg room and a healthy neck. There was nobody at all sat in this premium seating. So, what did that actually mean?
3) A sardine with whiplash.
So because nobody else wanted to stump up for the premium tickets, all of us wanting to watch the movie were crammed into the two rows of seats in front of the VIP section, oh there were more rows ahead of us, but nobody wanted those as they are way too close to the screen. So, out of a whole cinema, everyone watching this movie was crammed in to two rows of seating, with almost every other seat in the house left completely free.
This resulted in people kicking the back of our chairs, annoying loud conversation from several sections of the rows around us, and a cramped experience. Of course, this would have been the case had the cinema been full anyway, but it wasn’t, which just made the entire experience all the more frustrating. We had to have a few words with the people seated around us before they stopped making noise and kicking chairs.
4) Put your god-damned phone away before I feed it to you.
It used to be that people were encouraged (through embarrassing advertisements or otherwise) to turn off their phones long before the actual movie started. Of course, this makes sense, you don’t want to be interrupted by someone’s Frozen ringtone while the Hulk is busy pounding the hell out of something.
But wait… What’s this? There are now “interactive” advertisements in the lead-up to the movie, encouraging viewers to download an app on their smart phone and join in with quizzes and other content just before the feature starts.
How the hell do you think that is going to pan out? There were at least three people near me that, once they had extracted their phones from their pockets to join in with the app, never put them away again. And so periodically during the film my eye would be caught and distracted as one or more of them checked their messages, causing the screen to light up and break me away from the immersion of the movie.
Whoever came up with that idea needs to take a long walk off a short cloud.
5) Is it cold in here, or is it just me?
I don’t know if this is a symptom of the nearly empty room, but was was cold. So cold that my wife had to spend the entire movie with my coat draped over her like a blanket. Seriously, turn up the heating when there aren’t enough warm bodies to keep the room at an acceptable temperature!
I’d rather have a parrot.
Cinemas, and in fact the movie industry as a whole, have been blaming piracy for a long time for the decline in big-screen interest, and of course, it is a huge contribution. Some people, no matter what changes were made to the silver screen to make it more attractive, would always pirate the movie, so where is the point in appealing to them?
But I encourage you all to sit back and think. Really, think, about your customers. Not your bottom line, the monthly figures. Don’t run your entertainment like an accountancy, we are not cattle to be herded through showings and ushered out the other door. People go to the cinema for the experience, not the movie. What are you doing to those hard core of people who crave that experience and refuse to pirate movies?
You are punishing them.
You are punishing your most loyal customers by increasing prices to compensate for the wayward ones.
You need to ask yourself some fundamental questions. Why is your main screen only one quarter full on a Saturday night for a showing of the biggest movie of this year? Because it’s too bloody expensive for a poor experience that crams the viewers into a small, cold space and encourages them to use distracting devices to ruin the experience, and then doesn’t police it.
Lower your prices. Not by a small amount, I mean, really lower them to something that will attract attention. Then maybe your screens will be full. But more than that, you need to think about your customers, not your pockets. Because right now, it looks like everything about your planning seems to be forgetting the comfort and enjoyability of the people you are doing this for. If indeed, it is us you are doing anything for at all.
Piracy isn’t killing cinemas. It is causing them to slowly commit suicide.
2 thoughts on “Holy Massive Ticket Prices, Batman”
I completely agree with your comments and suicide prognosis. The last film we went to see recently was ‘Gone Girl’. A good film’ however the cinema experience was marred as the cinema was void of people atmosphere. The total (and I did take the prolonged time to actually count ALL of the people) people content was (including myself and your mum AND the usher was 5.
The confectionery prices were stupid but thankfully we aren’t stupid so we did’t buy anything (yes I may be tight —- but not stupid).
The cinema was cold so we had to put our coats back on.
We will probably go again in February (as it will be a cold day before we go back there again!).
I love and yet hate the cinema.
I love the big screen and amazing sound.
I hate other people being in the cinema at the same time as me. I realize that atmosphere is something that can add to the experience but the times when other participants have had a positive impact any given film is far outweighed by the times I am sat behind/next to/in front of talkers/texters/seat kickers/giants with big hats.
The best film I ever saw at the cinema was Black Hawk Down. Not exactly a block buster, decent film thats worth a watch. What made this film so special to me was due to having my car serviced I was at a loose end in the middle of a weekday during term time. I had the whole of the main screen at the now closed Ipswich Odeon all to myself.
My most recent experience has not been as good. I try to see the blockbuster films on the big screen, and indeed in iMax if possible (now that is expensive, wow). Last week I found myself with a few free hours on a Friday lunchtime so I took myself off to watch the much anticipated Age of Ultron.
I purchased my ticket (allocated seating, this means you can choose from a vague seating plan where you want to sit which is not as good as looking at who you might be sitting next to and making a judgement from that), snagged a bag of stale popcorn and a bucket of ice with a dash of brown sugar water, paid my £14 and headed off to the main event.
I was a bit disappointed to find I had not chosen a seat far from the other patrons, in fact somehow despite my best efforts I was one seat away from another consumer. Hiding my disappointment I politely asked the chap who was to be my neighbour to move his coat so I could take my seat. Once my prized seat was free I settled back into the warm embrace of Cineworlds finest furniture.
Warm was not what I got, as I struggled to juggle my drink and food into safe places where I could leave them while I sorted out wallet, phone, keys etc I started to get a nasty sinking feeling. In fact it felt like I was sinking into a cold puddle. Some douche had spilt their drink in my seat. Great.
Mortified I gather my belongings and trek back out to the young lady that tears your ticket on the way in and explain what had happened. She laughed. I. Was. Livid. I said I was glad she thought it was funny, well my mouth said that, my face said something like “you are an evil bitch”, but what was she going to do about it? She almost equally unhelpfully said I could go and sit in another seat and tried to turn away practically dismissing me.
By now I am shaking with rage, I ask through mostly gritted teeth to speak to a manager. One is provided. This manager is more apologetic but the only thing she can offer me is a refund and some paper towels. I end up in the disable toilet with my clothes under a hand dryer. Film missed, day ruined, thankfully not out of pocket.
So, like I said, other people spoil the cinema.
I cannot wait for Virtual Reality technology to hit the consumer market, then I can watch whatever I like (with enough patience) on as big a screen as I like, with perfect sound in whatever setting I want. I can do this laying down in bed naked or sitting in the garden on a sunny day (clothes optional). I wont have to pay extortionate prices for tickets, food or parking. For me it will be cinema heaven and its probably going to happen within the next 12 months.
I have had some great experiences over the years at the cinema, but I wont miss it one bit when its gone.
VR is going to kill cinema if they haven’t already done it themselves.