I have moaned in the past (and recently) that you don’t get double bills at the cinema any more. For anyone under the age of fifty, the concept of a double-bill might not even make sense. It doesn’t seem that long ago I would have said anyone under the age of forty, but when I mentioned it to a forty-six year old a few months ago, I was met with a blank look.

For the uninitiated, then, when I first started going to the cinema in the late 1960s (I started very young!), it was normal practice to see two films as part of the same showing. A great example of this was seeing Blazing Saddles and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (a combination that stayed with me for a long time afterwards) one after the other. Sticking with Mel Brooks movies, I remember watching Young Frankenstein (click here for a short sample) and Silent Movie (the only person who speaks in it is the mime artist Marcel Marceau). But it wasn’t just true for comedy. I saw two of the original Planet of the Apes movies, and Richard Lester’s version of The Three Musketeers (which was made into two films, the second one being The Four Musketeers), to give just two high profile examples. To be fair, this was more common when the films were doing the rounds again some time after their initial release. But even new films tended to have a supporting feature of some kind.

In those days, it was pretty standard for there to be an intermission, during which you could nip to the loo and/or buy refreshments – Kia-Ora drinks were popular, as were ice cream tubs – and you usually bought them from usherettes who’d come into the auditorium. Of course the usherettes didn’t normally look like this:

The choices of refreshments are far wider ranging now (and often noisier and stronger smelling), but you need to stock up before you go in to watch the film, or you’ll have to pop out again part way through. The intermission offered a chance to get them without missing any of the film. For those rare movies that were too long to have on with a supporting feature, the film would often abruptly come to a halt and the word INTERMISSION appeared on the screen. On reflection, I’m not really selling myself on this, let alone you.

Why am I banging on about this? Well, the reality is that the double bill has started to creep back. But it’s doing it slowly, and very selectively.

Last year, there were a few movies launched that were sequels. On opening nights, they were shown as double bills with the first in the series. For example, Kingsman: The Secret Service and its sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle. There have been others in the superhero genre.  It’s a great way to kick-start the run and get the ticket sales going. But it’s limited in its reach, because of the way they do it.

A film will have a release date. Let’s say it’s 1st July. So it can’t be shown to the public before then. What some cinema chains are doing is, instead of showing the film for the first time in the afternoon (or late morning) of the 1st, they’re showing it just after midnight. To get the punters in, they offer the chance to see the earlier movie (Kingsman: The Secret Service in my earlier example) at around 9:30pm on 30th June, and stay for the sequel.

It is a great idea, but as the release dates tend to be midweek, it’s not practical for a lot of people because they’re not going to get out of the cinema before 2am and a lot of them will either have school or work to go to the next morning. So, it’s a step in the right direction, but it’ll come as no surprise to you to know I think they should extend it and offer more showings. It will get more bums on seats, and it’ll introduce a younger generation to the joy of seeing more than one film on the big screen at a time.

And it’ll also introduce them to the concept of seeing a movie on the big screen that hasn’t only just been released. I have news on that front too, but you’ll have to wait for my next post.