I don’t like going to the cinema. For the most part I absolutely adore the films I make the effort to go and see in the cinema, but that’s a far lower number per year on average than a film buff like me should admit to.
At my local multiplex it starts with just the usual stuff – it’s expensive, the drinks are syrupy and the seats are uncomfortable, of course – but the whole film-going experience is usually soured for me before the blurry BBFC certificate even comes up.
Cineworld is now allocating seats, which is all well and good for an opening Friday night, but me and my lady went to see X-Men: Days of Future Past (which was bloody BRILLIANT by the way – I’ll have more on that soon) on a Tuesday afternoon, 3pm screening. The screening room wasn’t empty but there certainly wasn’t any jostling for position – we took our pre-determined seats near the back without any cause for confusion with other ticket-holders. The onscreen placeholder now says “Seat Allocation – are you sure you’ve got the right seats?” before the film starts, to which I felt like – even if we haven’t, it would be silly of someone to try and get them when there are so many free ones, and not to mention a bit creepy if some random decides to get their seat next to yours in an otherwise empty room.
I don’t even like sitting in a full screening – I realise the value of a live comedian playing to a full room, but sure as hell don’t get the appeal of watching a film in a room that’s jam-packed with mouth-breathers laughing and/or gasping. (In fact I don’t mind admitting my own out-loud reactions as the film played: mainly “euggghh” every time Halle Berry appeared.)
Then comes the adverts. Not the trailers, the adverts. Commercials are for television, a platform that’s mostly commercially-funded, but if I’ve paid cash money to watch a film in the cinema then why should I have to sit through ads before the film starts? I hate it. They’re not even the usual TV ad fare – the tone is even more sickeningly aspirational than you’d see on the box. It wouldn’t be such a problem but I’m here in this case to watch a (prequel to a) film about (the) Apocalypse – the rise of the machines which are coming to destroy an entire race of people. I’m not about to wish it all away just to sip soft drinks with my grinning idiot friends or eat pizza without a crust on it. I’m here to escape from real life, dammit, not be reminded of how aspirational and smug its inhabitants can be.
Worst of all, having spent the past ten years telling you to turn your phones off before the film begins, they’re now telling you to keep them on and use their app during the special adverts! Thanks to the wonder that is Cinime you’re supposed to leave your phone on until the film starts!
“Once you’ve got your snacks and drinks and found your seat, switch your phone to silent and leave your cinime app open. It’ll respond and interact with the screen while you sit back and enjoy the ads, delivering content, offers and discounts directly to your phone.”
I cannot begin to describe how much this outrages me. I work in marketing, for fuck’s sake, and even I’m sick of the word ‘content’ being bandied about when it’s not a part of my bloody job! I shouldn’t be offering consumers ‘content’, I should be offering them words, pictures, music and videos. It’s a bloody lazy thing to do, it really is. For advertisers it seems that turning your mobile off at the cinema was just fine until they realised they could try to make money from you by ignoring the rules of common courtesy and getting you to leave them on.
(To be fair, the one advert they ran during this special section – which came with a special intro and outro and so looked very odd to only contain one ad – was for Scope, a charity that’s doing such good things for such deserving people that I don’t even mind giving them the link.)
Luckily my cinema-going experience improved mightily as about half an hour into the film I knew it was going to be awesome, and it was. But the whole painful preceding part is enough to make me stay away from the cinema almost entirely these days, and that’s not only sad but also quite probably responsible for so much of the ‘downloadin’’ that the guy from that GI Joe PSA takes so much offence to.
For me to pay a lot of money for cinema tickets, food and drink, and then have the piss taken out of me at every turn by money-grabbing shits all the way up until the film starts – more than half an hour after the screening starts by the way if you include the trailers which obviously vary in intrigue – is just interminable. The film has to be really, really promising for me to even bother any more. And that makes me sad.