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Unique ID Code: 0000103955
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 8/6/2008 17:13
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    Why Don't You Go To The Cinema Anymore?

    Something odd happened to me recently, I found myself in a cinema for the first time in around three years. It was the Indiana Jones movie that finally tempted me back, but I got to thinking about how I had come to this pass. After all, once upon a time I was an inveterate cinemagoer. Nary a week would go by without me worshipping at the temple of the silver screen, but now I find my celluloid thrills digitised, compressed onto a 12 cm disc, and played back at my convenience, with a useful pause button for tea breaks. It appears that I am not the only one, as I often hear the cinema experience criticised as inferior to what a decent home cinema set up can deliver. Why is this?

    The complaints are myriad, ranging from poor sound quality, poor projection, to horrible audiences and cramped seats. Which is all nonsense of course. I still feel that even today, the largest plasma television and decibel shattering high definition home theatre set-up is no competition for watching a film projected on a 50ft high screen. With digital projection technology, image quality is far more consistent, and even in older screens, poor projection can be quickly sorted by a boot to the projectionist. Occasionally it's more fun to watch which audience member will crack first, than it is to watch the movie. Somewhere along the way, we've forgotten how to be audiences and turned into grumpy old geeks. Watching a comedy is nowhere near as much fun by your lonesome in front of an HD telly, as it is among a couple of hundred like minded aficionados in a cinema. A theatre full of people all laughing at the same joke can be a transcendental experience. It can generate positive feedback that makes the film even more enjoyable.

    And that's what home theatre can't replicate, experience. Going to the cinema used to be a memorable experience, and still is sometimes. I can remember watching movies at the cinema, in a way that is utterly ephemeral on television. Sometimes there are bad experiences, though certainly not to the extent that is reported on forums. It's almost turned into an urban myth, the louts in the audience. Ok, I've never been able to watch Goldeneye with equanimity, since my first viewing was punctuated by my seat being frequently kicked by the chav larva in the seat behind, but I also remember watching Star Trek IV, before they banned smoking in my local cinema, and the odd impression I had of smoke drifting up Spock's nostrils (I swear they twitched). The same cinema, which is now an evangelist church, had to compete to stay open in the late eighties and early nineties, and did so by creating a second screen under the stalls of the main screen. It was a tiny thing, barely 8 metres across, and had stereo sound that rivalled my TV. It was also the screen that holds my most memorable cinema experience ever. It was a late night showing of Pulp Fiction, watched by a packed capacity of around eighty. We went in as strangers, and after three hours of that film, we came out of that theatre an audience. Sharing that film gave us something in common, made us comfortable with each other, it broke down the boundaries that we usually erect to keep strangers from our personal space.

    And then there was the fleapit when I was a student. The Bloomsbury theatre also doubled as a cinema for our student union, and it would invariably play second run films to packed seats. These would be battered reels that had seen a summer of blockbuster use, they would be scratched, and worn, and prone to snapping. Yet this theatre saw more use than most West End cinemas. Health and Safety would burst an aneurysm at the sight of Standing Room Only in a cinema, and Fire Exits were just those doors that didn't have a view of the screen. A trainee projectionist would handle the film, focus and correct aspect ratio were optional, and the regular pauses when the film snapped would be alleviated by impromptu popcorn battles. Going to the cinema was never as much fun again. At a quid a pop, I went to the cinema more regularly then, than I have before or since.

    Ah! That's why I don't go to the cinema. Money! Cinemas have priced me out of their doors. The last time I was a regular attendee, matinee ticket prices were £4 at my not so local multiplex, when I went to see Indy, they were £6.50. And that's the cheap cinema. Most others charge matinee prices at around £8-10, and prime time tickets are anything up to £20. The cinema experience for me used to be a couple hundred like-minded people enjoying a film together. Now it's been re-packaged into the day/night out. Now the movie isn't the experience, it's watching the thing. Pay extra and you get extra comfy seats, a small gallery away from the plebes, you spend more at the snack kiosk than you do for your weekly shop, load up on food hot and cold, drinks, beer if you want it, and watch your bank balance drain. I'm a cheap git me, I just want to watch the movie, and when it comes to food, I'm more liable to sneak in a pack of sweets rather than pay 300% over the odds to the cinema (and risk being banned from a couple of chains who don't take kindly to people ignoring their overpriced highway to obesity), but even still a tenner a week adds up. I was going weekly at one time, back when a cinema ticket and popcorn was still under £5 in some theatres. At that sort of price you can take the good with the bad, the lousy audiences, and indeed the lousy films (I was the sole attendee to a showing of Mortal Kombat II). But now, if I'm going to enter a cinema, I want to know in advance the film is worth my money, since I'm spending so much of it. When a DVD is half the price of a cinema ticket, then that film had better not disappoint. In fact, I want to know for definite that it's worth my while. I'd rather wait and watch it on DVD or TV first. Actually who needs the cinema for that? Besides, nowadays you get more on DVD anyway…

    Ah! That's why I don't go to the cinema. Money! Studios have gone insane. Once upon a time they used to make films for specific audiences. Not now. Now a popular film has to grab as many people as possible, be aimed at as wide an audience as possible. When I was a kid, the ratings were simple, U, PG, 15 and 18. They made sense back then, but now they chop and change the ratings system to suit the studios. I could just about handle the 12 rating, as apparently 12 years olds can handle a little bit of swearing, and the odd sexual reference, but the 12A has to be the daftest piece of legislation to have been thought up. Films suitable for anyone under the age of 12 accompanied by an adult. I remember toddlers bursting into tears watching The Jungle Book, and these same kids can now watch giant ants devouring Russians? The 12 rating has given studios horrendous options. Nowadays the vogue is to take adult properties and sanitise them, kidify them and make them acceptable to young audiences. I've sat through Terminator 3, Aliens Versus Predator, Robocop 3, and Beverly Hills Cop 3, all to lament hours that I would never get back. Films that have had the heart gutted out of them, to be replaced with knowing winks and child friendly wisecracks… Talk to the hand.

    Ah, the R-Rated edit, another bugbear of mine. Studios will increasingly release skeletal versions of their films to cinema, films that aim for that kid friendly 12 rating, or films pared down to under 2 hours to increase the number of showings per day. Then, 12 months down the line, and after the initial DVD release, along comes an R-Rated director's cut, that fixes all the problems of the theatrical version (problems that they had hitherto denied having), and shows the true definitive vision of the film. And as is becoming increasingly more common, these directors' cuts are invariably the versions that should have been released in the first place. Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven is an obvious example. The studios said 'take out everything but the spectacle', and the resulting cinema experience was derided on all sides. Yet the film gets a lease of life on DVD that still has people talking about it. Then there is Daredevil. The studio decides to give it broad audience appeal, trim it to around 90 minutes, stick a bit of sex in, and get rid of all the dark edginess and character moments that nudged it over the limit in the eyes of the MPAA. It tanked. Now if they had released the subsequent director's cut, an infinitely better film, maybe we would have had Daredevil 2, instead of eye-candy Elektra, and Ben Affleck would still be acting… Oh well, every cloud as they say… A better example would be Chronicles of Riddick. I've reviewed both versions of the film, the PG-13 theatrical cut, and the R-Rated Director's Cut (both of which were rated 15 in the UK by the by), and the difference is astounding. One is child friendly nonsense, the other is an adult take on the story. Originally I criticise Thandie Newton's performance as insipid, then in the director's cut you see what has been excised, and suddenly she is actually acting. The plan was to create a Riddick trilogy, but the first film bombed in the cinemas. Maybe if they'd released the proper version we may have had more Riddick, instead of The Pacifier. It's as if going to the cinema you get to watch a 90-minute trailer for the DVD, the real version of the film.

    And that is why I don't go to the cinema anymore.

    Your Opinions and Comments

    Cost is definately the main factor here, but the second as you rightly state is the abysmal Studio requirement to cater to as many demographics as possible. How on earth can you produce anything in the horror genre and rate it 15? I can't stand horror anyway, but it's the principle.

    I can count the number of times I've been to the cinema in the last few years on both hands, and then only just broken onto the sixth digit. There are very few films that I would want to see on the cinema screen these days, I much prefer the comfort zone of my home setup.

    What's odd is that I buy a load of films on DVD and then never get round to watching them, but I still prefer that to actually going to a cinema where I know I'll definately be watching something.
    posted by Si Wooldridge on 8/6/2008 17:54
    I have a 5.1 DTS sound system at home, and a DLP projector that gives me a wonderful 6ft wide screen. The whole thing has been meticulously set up over the years to provide me with the best cinema experience I can get.

    The only way I could better it is upgrading to a HiDef projector, which are still too expensive considering the jump in quality isn't as great as you'd think. I already drive my projector with a PC, and abuse FFDShow filters to sharpen, remove noise, and generally tweak the image to make it as good as it can be.

    Now all that said, just before Christmas I finally had enough of going to the local multiplexes, and declared I would never go to the cinema again.

    I went for three reasons mainly, the first was to see two good friends that I've known for years, and its a good excuse to bump into them. The second, because I've always enjoyed the cinema, heck its why I put one together in my home. And finally, because it helps me decide whether I should buy it on DVD.

    With it costing now over £6 a ticket, plus another £6 odd quid on overpriced popcorn and coke, that's the price of a DVD.

    And then every time I go someone spoils it. The projectionist forgets to change the aspect ratio or its out of focus and I have to leave the cinema during the credits to tell someone to shout at the idiot. Hello McFly, isn't that your main job? Are you that busy that you can't get this small thing right?

    Or someone spends half the film getting out their mobile phone to send or receive text messages.

    Failing either of those two, someone decides to talk through the entire film about something unrelated. Or they are explaining the entire film to their mate. Once some guy was actually translating the entire film to his mate, and he had a very low deep voice you could hear a mile off.

    I remember going to see Sleepers, an excellent film that involved child abuse. During the entire film a teenage girl in the row behind spent the entire thing endlessly repeating "Oh my god" in a slightly chavvy voice.

    At one film, two guys sat in the front and smoked pot. I could go on, most of the films I've seen in the last few years were ruined by people treating it as if the thing were their living room.

    So the last film I saw, just before Christmas, which was ruined by people talking, was when I decided to give up with the whole idea. My brother says I should go to Bluewater, they have an excellent cinema there were you can even get a sofa. It's more expensive, and miles away, my home cinema is upstairs and as I mentioned before, excellent.

    Two best movie experiences I had last year? Transformers and Die Hard 4, both I saw in December, in my home cinema. Nobody spoke throughout the entire flicks, everything was in focus and the right aspect ratio, and the sound rocked! Tonight I watched 300, man that gave my subwoofer a nice workout. Nobody got to ruin that either. ;)
    posted by RJS on 8/6/2008 23:31
    10 / 10
    Bottom line for me is it's too much of a chore to go to the cinema.

    * It's a question of going on my own (no fun)
    * Although not that distant as the crow flies I still have to walk there
    * Price
    * Feeling about as welcome as a dose of cholera in a diving suit when I get there/ incompetence and ill manners of staff
    * Lack of a feeling of occasion**
    * Other patrons
    * Walk home

    ** I think it's the lack of occasion that gets me down the most. Going to the cinema when I was younger was a big thing for me. I was a real cinema junkie, and I had a projector at home to try to recapture the feel of the full theatrical presentation - the curtains draw back, catching the first moments of the screen image, the darkness, the flickering rays of the projection beam... I loved the whole cinema experience, but nowadays it's all adverts I've seen on television played with deafening sound, cramped seats, the sound dropping out of DTS to the mono track every time a projectionist's splice goes through and nobody in the projection booth to correct things.

    Although my home setup is currently a 32" LCD, I do have an upscaling DVD and a PS3 hooked up to it, so I can watch everything in 720p, with 5.1 DD or DTS available as required through the amp. I don't have a subwoofer as all five channels feed to proper cabinet speakers with their own full bass response. The sound I get is positively apocalyptic when I turn up the wick, and with my viewing position, the picture is the equivalent of a six-foot image viewed from the other side of the room. Blu-ray looks amazing, and I know there's another 250 lines of definition I can look forward to when I next upgrade the display. :D
    posted by Mark Oates on 8/6/2008 23:34
    Although I have over 1000 films on DVD and generally buy the best new releases to watch on a home cinema setup that isn't to be sniffed at, I still like to go to the cinema.

    As Jitendar said, you can't beat watching a film on a 50ft high screen with tremendous sound. As for price, I pay £10.99 a month for a Cineworld Unlimited card - less than the cost of seeing two films and cheaper than a new DVD - the only additional costs are the 40-mile round trip and refreshments, which I never buy as I can go for 2 hours without eating.

    My abiding memory of the cinema is a midnight showing of The Exorcist - an experience that simply can't be replicated at home. With more and more films being shot in 3D you'd have to go to the cinema to see it, as home setups don't have the new technology required - few cinemas do yet.

    Another thing which Jitendar mentioned - the shared experience - can only be found at those rare showings where old films are re-released. Watching Withnail and I, The Dam Busters and The Wicker Man projected digitally in a full theatre where everyone was reacting the same way as I, was very special and something you don't get when you're watching it at home.
    posted by David Beckett on 9/6/2008 09:26
    10 / 10
    One of the greatest cinematic experiences I ever had was going to see Jaws with my Dad on its original release back in 1975. The two stand-out moments for me were when the old fisherman's head lolls out of the boat and freaks out Richard Dreyfuss. The sound of 2500 people jumping simultaneously, then the same 2500 cheering the split second after "Smile, you sonofabitch!". I'd been hooked on the cinema for a while at that point, but that cemented it for me.

    I'm an absolute cinema whore - more so than a DVD junkie, believe it or not - but modern cinemas just don't have the magic of the old picture palaces. The echoey sound, the soft purr of sprocket holes if you're sat really close to the projection booth or running your own projector. The picture on the screen has a completely and utterly different character to the picture you get on an LCD, CRT or even projection tv. And as for film grain - so many companies DNVR it out of existence, but it should be there, boiling away like the surface of the sun.

    But going to modern cinemas doesn't do it for me. I never get the same feeling of excitement from going to the local Odeon that I did from going to the old Odeon (which sadly now is the home of Funny Girls). The whole experience is radically different, and the romance has gone. Watching DVDs never had the romance, but I feel it's still a better experience than the current cinematic one.

    David - the midnight showing of Exorcist - what do they do? Hose you down with pea soup?
    posted by Mark Oates on 9/6/2008 16:41
    David - the midnight showing of Exorcist - what do they do? Hose you down with pea soup?
    No gimmicks - it was all about the atmosphere. It's one thing going into the cinema during the day and quite another going in at near midnight. On top of that, watching such a powerful film and then walking out the front door at 2am on a cloudless night when it's absolutely silent outside made the whole thing a bit special.

    Last night I went to The Arts Centre to see Juno - it's a small screen (4:3) with bad sound (hiss and crackle), but it was probably more enjoyable than watching it at the multiplex because there were a lot more people there, laughing at the same time I was.
    posted by David Beckett on 10/6/2008 08:55