Today's cinemas are great

Cinemas have come a long way from incredibly poky velvet lined seats, cheesy local adverts for Stan’s Chip N Fish shop and the ice cream interval.  What did happen to all those trays the girls used to bring the ice creams in on? Nowadays the experience is sleeker, more airbrushed. There is little glamour to be seen from cinemas in the 2000s. Whereas they once rejoiced in monikers like the Roxy, the Gaumont which sound like places you would want to visit they are now just blandly named Odeon or Cineworld.

"Help!!" Auntie Beryl had fallen into the vat of popcorn

Our Odeon, opened nearly five years ago in the middle of a large city centre development, has a circular entrance area the size of an old style cinema. Here you can buy enormous popcorn filled containers the size of old fashioned cinema seats. And various drinks served in unfeasibly gigantic containers that would account for the average amount of liquid a person drinks in one day. It’s a mystery why people want to eat and drink while watching a film, even if they have just been for a meal half an hour earlier.
 Yet this is not one of those `didn’t it used to be better` articles. In fact modern cinema does enhance the film experience once the lights go off. Incidentally, I was at a screening last year where they forgot to turn off the lights which made for a completely different experience. The smooth digital picture we get nowadays is devoid of all those annoying jumps, scratches and blemishes and if fidgety people want to leave to go and get popcorn refills they can walk in front of the screen without their silhouette actually appearing. This also means that people no longer have the option to make shapes on the screen to annoy us all.
The jury’s still out on 3D films with reports that people are suffering blurred vision and headaches for hours after watching a 3D film. Many of the first batch of 3D films I saw seemed gimmicky with characters obliged to throw things to show off the 3D. The motion of 3D still does not really replicate the way you or I see things as we walk about but it is getting better. The turning point might have been Hugo. Martin Scorsese seemed to realise that 3D should be about drawing you into the film, not through showy moments but via an overall depth. Still, I’m yet to be convinced that 3D is as essential as its proponents suggest especially as it seems to be only two and half hour films that employ it leaving you with sore eyes at the end. From a purely practical (or impractical) point of view, those of us who were glasses have to simply plonk the 3D ones on top which must look particularly stupid! I always hope that as everyone has 3D glasses on, they won’t notice!
Yet what everyone seems to be forgetting is how good 2D films are these days in terms of picture and sound quality. Of course it does all depend on whom you are sharing the auditorium with. By and large tales of rowdy, disruptive modern cinema goers are apocryphal yet occasionally you do get a group of people who don’t seem that interested in the film. Instead they want to carry on their conversation or open an outrageously crinkly wrapped item giggling as they do. As cinemas decide to stock sweets and snacks you’d think they would ensure the packaging does not make such a racket. Instead they seem to have opted for the noisiest wrapping possible, so loud it can rival the noisiest trailer.
The `hate piracy` adverts are amusing of course, but beyond the legal issues, they do have a point to make about the atmosphere in which you watch a film. However amazing a 3D wide screen super calibristic spin wheel TV you may own it cannot match the sound and picture depth of cinema screen, it simply can’t. Your house is not big enough unless you live in a mansion with very tall rooms..
Also, it can be that domestic movie watching can suffer more interruptions than at the cinema where, once everyone’s settled, you pretty much forget other people are there. Try setting out to watch a two and a half hour film at home however and even if you have turned off your phone and locked the door, chances are this will be the moment Auntie Ethel calls or next door’s dog decides to break through that hole in the fence. Even worse, someone else wants to watch Corrie or the X Factor. Potentially worse than that, something incredible happens outside and you miss half the film.
Cinema remains the best value for money entertainment though; cheaper than theatre or sport, so you don’t even mind the extra they charge for 3D or IMAX films. Perhaps the one drawback of the modern cinema experience though is lack of variety. You know the score- you check out the film times and 8 screens are showing The Hobbit, another 3 Skyfall and so on. There’s no room left for the smaller films, the more independent movies that some people like. Surely it would not lose the big chains too much money to reserve at least one screen for such fare?


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