Those of you who know me reasonably well will know I’m a big fan of cinema. I have been since my grandma took me to see The Wizard of Oz back in the late 1960s. You may also be aware that I have some strong feelings about how cinema has changed over the years.
There are good and bad aspects of those changes. I grind my teeth at the fact that a movie has a very short life on the big screen these days. When I saw The Wizard of Oz, it had first been released about 30 years earlier and was still doing the rounds. My second film (Jason and the Argonauts) was six years old at the time. These days, if you get a six-week run before the movie disappears from your local cinema, you’re lucky.
On the other hand, technology has improved and now we can see a film in a variety of different formats. That can be handy if, like me, you find three important people in your life want to see The Last Jedi with you and they can’t come and see it at the same time. Whilst it’s not unheard of for me to watch a film more than once, seeing it three times in less than two weeks was stretching things even for me. Fortunately, these advances meant I was able to give myself some variety. I saw it in standard 3D with my daughter, 4DX with my son (his back still hasn’t forgiven me), and IMAX 3D with my partner. If my mum had wanted to go, I’d have had the opportunity to watch it in standard 2D. But she didn’t.
I’d love to elaborate on what those differences mean to the film-goer, but that would be a whole other post (and may well be).
I should also add that the cinema visit is a lot more comfortable than it used to be. The old, narrow, barely upholstered flip-up seats have mainly been replaced by comfortable chairs with halfway decent leg-room. True, I do still have to shift position periodically while I’m watching the film, but that’s probably as much to do with my aging frame than any deficiency in the seating.
Also, at a recent showing, I had the benefit of seats that reclined. The downside there is the possibility of getting so comfortable you nod off.
So it’s good that cinemas are still thriving and are offering customers great and varied experiences. Especially when the advent of home videos and DVDs once seemed to sound the death knell for cinema.
It’s a lot cheaper to buy a DVD. Very often you can get one for £5 or less and you can have the whole family round and watch it as many times as you want. Compare that to spending £10 or more per head, and then being stung for that much again if you want a drink and popcorn. Back when we had smaller TV sets, it still looked attractive. With our TV screens much bigger now, it would have been even more understandable if the appeal of going out to watch a film diminished.
Instead, cinemas have raised their game. It’s a treat and, arguably, a bit of a luxury, but it’s one I’m more than happy to pay for because I get to enjoy movies in the way they’re supposed to be enjoyed.
In spite of this progress, there are other aspects I complain about, particularly the lack of double-bills. I suppose it makes sense that they don’t have them any more. They used to exist because old movies would go round and round again. There was also a tendency to make shorter films in the past. From the cinema’s perspective as well, they can hardly charge double for you to see two films – so the margins are less.
Even so, I have many happy memories of watching double bills. The best example that comes to mind is Dr. No and Goldfinger (in 1974, twelve and ten years respectively after they were first released).
We don’t get these options now, and I miss them. For a long time I’ve felt it was a shame that there are films I missed the first time around that I’ll never get the chance to see on the big screen, and nor will I get to see two movies back to back.
And yet maybe all is not lost…
If you like your movies and any of this resonates with you, stay tuned. There’s good news on the way.