Are cinemas important for movie-going?
It’s a big question that has lingered on my brain for a while. Not because there is a part of me that is hollering no. Every fibre of my being screams yes like an R. Kelly song. The reasons I pose the query is not because of my own inner struggle, it’s because people are often debating with me the importance of cinema when it’s easier and cheaper to stay at home.
See, as a cinema worker and a film obsessive, I’m a cinema purest. I believe in the power of darkened rooms with a crowd of people, reacting to the stories as they flicker on the screen. They impact you as you are shrouded and completely focused on the screen. You cannot beat the surging world that is spun around you. To then react with a good crowd, laugh together, emote together, share an experience together – then man, it’s just the best thing in the world. From blockbusters to independent films, they all deserve their place on the big screen.
The problems come when you foster in the rise of cinema tickets that are at an all-time high, money, and other people. As a person, I think we can all admit that we suck as a species. Whilst I never bemoan technology, smart phones are the scourge of movie-dom. The flashing little lights pop up and distract your attention and it’s infuriating. Just stay off your phone for two goddamn hours and cease your conversation. Cinemas and living rooms are completely different. You shut your goddamn mouth in the cinema unless you want to react in an over-excited manner.
The latter, however, has a lot of benefits too. In your own comfort, you can pick and choose when you watch a film and what to watch. You have more to choose from too: A plethora of classic cinema at your hand. There are minimal fees. DVDs, VOD services, and downloads cost barely any money and can be enjoyed straight away. You can save money with snacks and food as well as pause the film whenever Mother Nature calls. Plus there is no better feeling then snuggling up in a blanket, with a whole heap of chocolate, next to someone that you love…that’s bliss!
What doesn’t work at home is your attention span, it’s easier to be distracted by the internet, the people around you, and to get fidgety. Speaking truthfully, I have zero attention span at home because I like to relax so much at home that concentrating on one thing causes me to sleep. I tend to watch films whilst writing and that’s worse because I’m not getting the full impact of the movie. Unless I recreate the conditions of a cinema, it’s hard not to drift away or into slumber.
So with both home and cinema having their ticks and crosses, there can only be one conclusion.
The public and the film industry need to recognise the difference between the two. There are genuine reasons to bend preference to viewing films at home or cinema outings and that’s OK. We’re all different sausages in the frying pan of life.
The big solution is the dilute the market somewhat and invest in independent cinemas and films. If blockbusters were to be stripped back to a handful a year, they’ll go back to being “events.” Meanwhile regular cinema-going could look forward to comedies, dramas, and romantic middling films that were once the sustainable diet of cinema. Which, in turn, would also allow room for independents to thrive – especially if cinemas, studios, and VOD demand services work together for maximum marketing and audience access.
On an added note: Independent cinemas thrive with the balance as chains falter on a local level. Offering just blockbusters and family films, town based Odeons or Cineworlds leave audiences disappointed at the lack of variety and high turnover of massive films.
The idea of blockbusters being available to home-viewers straight away still makes little sense but if one were to recognise the habits of film lovers leaning more towards VOD, then the gap between cinema release and Home Entertainment release could be shortened. And cinemas chains could learn from their independent brethren that cutting the prices as the movie starts to leave theatres. Cineworld’s Movies for Juniors program is highly successful where family films are offered for just £2. If Cineworld brought back releases with the same high turnaround, with just a couple of months between release and re-release, it would possibly see a spike in sales.
And to create this happy medium, the public need do nothing save three things. For a start, search for the cinema deal that suits you. Unlimited Cards, independent cinemas, online deals – they are out there to help you (but you can read more about that here.) Secondly, don’t pirate. Movie-making takes graft, and thousands of people at different levels spending years getting a film off the ground. It’s a hard, beautiful, and enduring art form. I mean, you wouldn’t steal a car?
The biggest one though? Be considerate. The cinema is not your home. You can’t just get your phone out and start tweeting. Those messages and emails can wait. Your conversation can too – quiet darkness is the only habitat in which cinema watching can survive. You can’t go into a film, be glued to your phone, and then complain about movie prices.
Film watching is an experience – whether at home or in cinemas. You are paying to be emotionally charged, hilariously entertained, and taking into a story beyond your own. That is, ultimately, what movies are for and those who create it deserve your time, money, and respect – no matter where you are.