The Death Of Cinema

I do miss the cinema.

Having read the latest issue of Empire magazine and listened to their various (lengthy!) podcasts about memorable cinema moments recently it got me thinking about what’s going on with cinema at the moment.

There is something about that big screen experience that can’t be matched at home. While a big chunk of it is physical, the huge screen, the booming sound system, the seats with the big arms with the cup holder! A big part of it is down to the social aspect. Even though the film itself may only be a couple of hours they’ll often be food or drinks before and after where the excitement is built up or that post film discussion over the best bits which often carry on into the days and sometimes weeks after are difficult to replicate in your living room.

It’s that cramming together of people though that meant staying open during a pandemic wasn’t really going to be possible. It’s also an industry that can’t work in any other way. Lots of restaurants have been able to pivot to offering take-away and delivery services. While it’s not quite the same as the regular experience it’s just about enough for a lot of them to hang on for now. Cinema can’t do that. We’ve already had options for consuming films at home for years.

But there is an argument that cinema was already dying before all this happened and this is the final nail in the coffin.

A trip to the cinema for a family now is a big chunk of change and that’s just the tickets! Before you even look at the cost of sweets or popcorn and drinks instead of being a regular occurrence it’s now a luxury, something you do a handful of times a year for something you really want to see.

Big strides in home cinema technology and the rising popularity of streaming have also contributed. For a lot of people their big screen and a list of films at their finger tips are good enough. Waiting a month or two for something appear online or via blu ray is fine.

Both of things have been a contributor to declining numbers

We’ve fallen into the home viewing category more often over the last few years because of the lack of accessibility. I’ve written here a few times in the past about how difficult it for a deaf person to go to the cinema. There are usually only a handful of subtitled screenings when a film is released, often in a slot that’s rarely convenient for most people and hardly ever hardly on a Friday or Saturday night which is prime “night out” slots.

We’ve gotten to the point now where Bryony has kind of given up. Which I totally get. It’s not worth the mental effort. The constant disappoint when you can’t see a film you’re really interested in because the local cinema is only showing it at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon on top of all the other barriers put in front of deaf people on a daily basis is draining so it’s just easier to not to do it. That means family cinema trips these days are often just me and the kids.

That makes me sad.

I’m gutted Bryony didn’t see the look on the kids faces during the final act of Avengers Endgame or the excitement in the car on the way to seeing Tenet at the IMAX as they’d been bingeing on the trailer for months. We talked only last night about how she was desperate to talk to me about Inception but couldn’t as she’d gone without me as it was the only way we could make the subtitled screening timings work around the kids. It’s frustrating when the three of us have seen a film and we can’t talk about it with her because we’ve got to wait for the blu ray.

This isn’t fair.

So our trips to the cinema have gotten fewer. We’ll increasingly wait for the home release where we can see things together.

If you want some further reading on this she wrote an excellent piece after we went to see Rogue One.

So can cinema survive once we’ve seen the back of coronavirus? Will people decide that staying in home is good enough after all? Especially after the studios are changing tactics and having things come straight to streaming. If one of the big reasons for lots of people to go to the cinema is because that’s where it arrives first if that disappears will there be a big chunk of people who decide that’s going to be their default from now.

If that happens is cinema viable in the long term? Will the reduced numbers mean it’s just not profitable anymore?

I hope not. As I said I miss cinema.

I haven’t even talked about the shared experience of seeing a film with complete strangers! Being in a packed screening where everyone laughs or gasps or cheers or groans at the same time is really special. That energy after the credits roll and everyone is talking about what happened that creates a buzz in the room. The looks you give someone a few seats down as you make eye contact that manage to convey “what just happened!” with a raise of the eyebrow.

It’s something I’d like to stick around.

This was meant to be a introductory piece to some of my favourite memories of going to the cinema. It’s far too long for that now! So I’ll put those in a separate post to follow shortly!

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Andy Parkes is Technical Director at Coventry based IT support company IBIT Solutions. Formerly, coordinator of AMITPRO and Microsoft Partner Area Lead for 2012-2013. He also isn't a fan of describing himself in the third person.

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