Vive La Cinema!

Tuesday 10 September 2013, 15:38

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

I've just returned from the Screenplay film festival in Shetland. The new cinema on the island has sold an extraordinary 100,000 tickets in its first year. Who says cinema is dead?

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If it's September it must be Shetland...

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    Comment number 1.

    I hope you are right Mark, I for one would love to go to cinemas to see movies. But there needs to be the interesting movies to go and see. Where the heck are they? Hollywood stopped making them and the only alternative is a few zero-budget efforts. Where's the investment coming from?

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    Comment number 2.

    I hope so too. However, probably stating the obvious, but cinemas need to remain competitive in order to survive, particularly not to lose the cinematic regulars. Whilst it may be difficult to change the minds who've already decided, it would be imperative not to lose the aforementioned, but also to entice everybody else, especially those "caught in the middle".

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    Comment number 3.

    I for one am glad that Shetland has a proper arts centre and cinema, and even though I cherish home viewing, the experience of watching a film with a respectful audience is an experience that cannot be replicated. I work in the heart of the West End so for me going to the cinema is not that much of a novelty. However I live in South East London and for neigh on twenty five years there has been talks of opening a cinema near where I live, and so far there has been no progress. There are three libraries, there are two fire stations, and lord knows how many empty industrial estates within a ten minutes walking distance from my house, and no one has yet launched an idea of building and opening a cinema? I mean there are enough supermarkets on my main road, surely a small cinema would suffice.

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    Comment number 4.

    This is a difficult one. I remember the anticipation of a film prefaced by the trailers from 'Pearl & Dean;' this experince has sadly dissipated from multiplexes. The excitement of pictures for a certain generation, has sadly been weakened by the fervor of internet participation. Will anyone contributing to this sight remember the days when the 'Teaser Trailer' was salivating. Now, it has become a useless, overbearing tool; teaser trailers are mocked, duplicated and fabricated just to create a sense of excitement... It is a fake world we live in now... which is sad, for moviegoers.

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    Comment number 5.

    Good on Shetland, but that's only about 5 cinema visits per person per year. They could do better! Readers of this blog would probably skew a much higher average, and I'd bet that, in busman's holiday mode, Dr Kermode probably does more than that a year even when he's not being paid to go.

    Excusing my statistical churl, I really think it's great that Shetland have got themselves such a good cinema facility and that it is being well supported. I only hope that many other areas outside of our main metropolitan areas (London, etc,) can get and support decent facilities that can give other communities the variety, choice and joy of great movies on a big screen.

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    Comment number 6.

    You're being too romantic, Mark. It has nothing to do with proving cinema's alive and kicking. I've been to Shetland. Apart from a drive around the main island and maybe a trip up to Breckon beach, there's nothing to do. So, imagine what life's like for the locals. All this nice new cinema proves is that Shetlanders are deprived of any decent entertainment but are now able to watch newly released films in a proper cinema they didn't previously have. It must be heaven for them after working the land all day or trawling out at sea. Now put the same cinema in the middle of Inverness and see if you get the same attendance and enthusiasm. I doubt it.

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    Comment number 7.

    Theres something magical about a community cinema, very Paradisian . We have our very own Films in Peel. Tomorrow night is the start of the Isle of Man Film Festival and their showing Being Nice , from a first time manx film maker Andy Blackburn , with Q & A with him afterwards. Other joys coming are A Royal Affair , Wadjda and Searching for Sugarman..If possible that big beautiful screen is always were you need to see the magic first.

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    Comment number 8.

    http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/competition-commission-stop-the-enforced-sale-of-three-picturehouse-cinemas?share_id=YHjeviSBHx&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition#

    Great blog, which prompts me to beg all who read these blogs and share the passion for independent cinema to follow the above link and sign the petition to save Cambridge Arts Picturehouse from closure. This cinema is a keystone of cultural diversity in the city, and it's loss would be a tragedy. Please lend your support and help to save it. Thanks x

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    Comment number 9.

    Jipes, can't believe Cam PH is under threat? I thought it must be a staple of the Film Fest in Cam?? Oh well guess the multiplex + shopping maul + chain restaurants scales a lot better?

    Tbh, the PH's I last went to sorta sold out to BB's anyway and became less alternative films.

    Shetland and Scotland is dark and cold in Winter: Cinema is a big requirement. Back in the day when communities were more stable and less transient and fewer alternatives the main hall with the big picture probably was a social special night out. It works for Shetlands probably close community and the conditions during Winter. But iirc Edinburgh's had a few cinema closures and the Cameo almost closed? But not the multiplex I bet that also has bowling nearby?

    No, I think the future of cinema is multiplex shopping maul + chain restaurant + car parking and BB movies with the latest special effects and tech systems to make it worthwhile going out.

    The alternative is clubs: Village hall + projector + community choose any available dvd to buy/download and bingo. Again a small social watering hole with a backroom and film night to go with quiz night etc and last orders! download anything, projector etc in a bigger city. Again smaller venues could update their equipment and improve the screen equipment if the demand merits it. Notice how the high street is transitioning.It means more friendly high customer service type of retail is going to survive Apple shops are a good eg of this. So too with cinema imo unless it's huge multiplex. Bit like how pubs have expanded from drinking to serving food etc and going for Craft Beer. So too with other venues going more high social if smaller and more specialist interest. Additionally easier if download and watch atst as release due to digital transition and lower time to dvd.

    I think in both cases better for everyone.

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    Comment number 10.

    Absolutely agree Mark. We have a part-time cinema in my part of the Highlands and Island - but it's a proper auditorium with good sound system and decent projection and a cafe outside and that makes all the difference.
    For us remoties we need to take things into our own hands - the power of community ownership is potentially vast yet grossly under-utilised. But when it works it really works. For example the restoration and resurrection of the Art Deco Birks Cinema in the Perthshire village of Aberfeldy (a village which is also blessed with one of the best independent books shops in Scotland):

    http://www.birkscinema.co.uk/

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    Comment number 11.

    Great to hear. Looks like a wonderful building and a fantastic festival. Good one Shetland.

    It's got me thinking that despite the rise of home entertainment, I have never been better served by the sheer number of cinemas that have sprung up. In the radius of about two miles from my house, I have two large multiplex cinemas for all my blockbuster needs. I live in the East End of Glasgow, so not exactly in the heart of the city either. A 15 minute train ride into the city centre allows me to go to another huge multiplex and I believe a second multiplex will be built quite close by. There is also the fantastic GFT which shows an amazing selection of arthouse and independent cinema.

    About 10-15 years ago the options were actually quite limited in my area and I had nowhere near the selection that there is today. I'd love to see a breakdown of the number of cinemas throughout the UK over the last 30 years. I think it would be quite surprising!

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    Comment number 12.

    I just checked how many cinema seats are available in County Durham (my home county) and for a population of over half a million we have 1026 seats (or five screens). I used to have to spend over £40 a time (travel ticket et al) to see movies in neighbouring counties if I wanted to see something not showing in County Durham. Cannot do that any more.

    Does anybody else feel like it is a massive struggle to see movies on the big screen.

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    Comment number 13.

    I agree anniemouse, times are tough for a lot of people and we can't afford to go as much as we like. We can usually only go on Orange Wednesday or Saver Tuesday.

    It not only limits the amount of times you can visit, but I also find myself limiting my cinema visits only to films I'm sure I'll enjoy. This means I'm usually kicking myself when I end up watching others later on and find some really good ones I missed.

    I guess being limited in choice is one of the reasons why I choose to read reviews and especially the good doctor's as I find we have similar tastes. I used to read Little White Lies as well, but I simply can't agree with most of their ratings and reviews anymore. I had far too many awful arthouse film experiences due to their tastes, and so now they can't be trusted.

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    Comment number 14.

    The reason I stopped going to the Cinema is the drudge that is coming out of Hollywood (the thought of Pirates of the Carribean 5 and The Hobbit trilogy (the book is only 310 pages) fills me with terror. And don't get me started on multi-awardwinning 'true story' films like Argo, the only truth about films like this is, without changing the whole story to make the US the hero, these films wouldn't be made (after all who wants to watch a film were Canadian diplomats did much of the work in getting the Americans out of Iran, with minimal CIA help).

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    Comment number 16.

    I will never, NEVER stop going to the Cinema!
    You can make it as cheap and easy to download films as you like, it just doesn't feel the same as when you're sat in that theater watching it on the big screen.
    I'm ridiculously lucky to live a half an hour drive away from the Warwick Arts Centre and a short train ride to the Electric Cinema in Birmingham both of which have programmes packed with films that may be overlooked by the likes of 'World of Cine'. I love going to these places because it always feels like a mini adventure to find undiscovered treasure :-)
    Having said that, I even love going to my local multiplex. It doesn't have the same character and charm as smaller, independent cinemas but I still think it's great. My local cinema (we'll call them 'Schmodeon') gives it's staff badges with their favourite film written under their name and I always ask about them (provided I'm not holding up the queue too much) and it usually means I miss the pre-trailer advertisements because I'm chatting to someone behind the counter about films (apart from the guy who's badge said his favourite film was 'Transformers'... at him I just frowned).
    I think there's something in the ritual that I love. Making your way there, getting your ticket, turning your phone off, watching the trailers, talking (sometimes shouting) about the film on the way home; it's part and parcel of the experience and I love it all.
    I have such joy from going to the pictures I could never give it up :-)

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    Comment number 17.

    The key, Mark, as ever, is "location, location, location". It seems the small population of Shetland love the experience of a social night out, as you said, going for a drink afterwards, chatting about the film etc. However, I live in London, a densely over-crowded city, and I suspect I'm not the only capital resident who actually relishes the prospect of escaping my fellow humans for an evening, and although I do like going to the cinema, I still mostly prefer home viewing now. Besides... I can pause the film if I need to go to the loo, the lack of which ability in a cinema once caused me to miss the climactic moments of Raging Bull...

    Also, I suspect overall London costs may just be a bit higher: not only are ticket costs probably more, but we also have further to travel, and higher pub prices, so the overall night out will cost a great deal more than in Shetland.

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    Comment number 18.

    A good cinema is a wonderful place, now if only some of the Hollywood efforts would get of its ass and start thinking in terms of NEW TALENT, both in screen plays & financing instead of repeat after repeat, or buy more foreign movies, the world would bet a better place....of course the younger members of today's audience need to leave their cell phones home and shutup during the movie!

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    Comment number 19.

    When I was living in Canada about 12 years ago there was a cinema in Victoria on Vancouver island that I used to visit every Wednesday night and it used to be an old aircraft hanger from the second world war and it was all done out in fifties deco. They had an old style Usherette who sold candy and nuts before the film started and the whole place reeked of popcorn, it was a magical place to watch old and new movies, I loved it. Also I met the guy who owned it and he told me that he was a rich man who made his money from various businesses that he was into but this venture was a love affair he had with old style cinema and he made money from it but not a lot and he didn't really care, he wasn't in it for the money he just wanted his own old style cinema and share it with the people of Victoria.

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    Comment number 20.

    Cinema may not be dead, but in a small city like Exeter, which has three cinemas - Vue, Odeon and Picturehouse, getting an opportunity to watch anything other than mainstream movies is nigh on impossible.

    The Picturehouse was once the place to go for non-English language, independent or art-house movies. Since being subsumed by Cineworld, access to these types of films has been reduced to perhaps one screening a week, often at times only the available to pensioners, students or the non-employed. This week we have a choice of Rush or About Time both of which can be seen at the Odeon or Vue. The only other reason to attend the cinema is to watch a Live screening of something from the National Theatre, Opera, Ballet or a significant sporting event. Why? because these are cash cows pulling in the money for these organisations and fundamentally changing the use of the cinema. Don't get me wrong, I understand why Picturehouses may want to maximise their revenue stream by hiring the theatres out to, what have till now been minority pastimes for the wealthy middle classes, but investment is not trickling down to the smaller film. Cinema as we knew it is fundamentally changing, with giants of the film industry like Spielberg and Lucas giving warning that the future for movies is likely to be on cable TV. If the Entertainment industry sees cinema merely as way maximising profit, it will not be long until the idea of watching an independent or art house movie will be gone forever.

    Yes, Cinema may survive but it will merely be an outlet for big budget movies with little narrative and large amounts of CGI - computer games for the big screen, and Live events.

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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