In this piece for the Culture Show I meet one of a dying breed - a projectionist - and also brave the local multiplex. Good? Bad? Let me know what you think of cineplexes.

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The Moviegoers Code Of Conduct

Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.

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  • Comment number 49. Posted by beckyi90

    on 20 Nov 2011 13:38

    well I have recently been trained up on projection at a multiplex cinema, we have 9 film and 3 digital screens, and the digital screens break. All the time, they are so temperamental, the latest was a lovely pink and green snow across the screen for no reason, and 3D is mostly terrible (although some animations play well with it).

    Oh and we've had numerous 'subtitled' shows on digital that have had non existent text, easy to check with celluloid. Digital is not better. It is still a young technology that needs allot more improving before being trusted to run every showing through.

    However regarding the complaints against projectionists, you must all go to terrible cinemas, as if there's ever a rack we sort it as soon as we are notified, same with ratio sound or timing (under threat of disciplinary action) all whilst making up and breaking down the new films for the next friday. And all films are previewed before public viewing to check for scratches, mistakes or anything else.
    I do enjoy my job tho, no grumpy customers upstairs :)

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  • Comment number 48. Posted by StevieJLFC

    on 25 Sept 2011 23:13

    I worked as a Manager for Odeon for nearly 10 years and remember the very first digital projection taking place at 'The Cathedral' (Hollywood's nickname for the Odeon Leicester Square). It was a copy of 'A Bug's Life' and the projector was so expensive the cost was shared by Odeon and Disney. The reaction by the audience was very positive but the fear was always that this would spell the end of the technician in every 'box'.

    Odeon, then part of the Rank organisation, ran the business so that local managers really did manage their own business and were not just glorified caretakers. You had to get customer service right. A Duty Manager was always front of house and we staffed so that we would have enough people around to show people to their seats once the screen had gone dark. We even had a policy where the first run of a new film was watched through by someone to ensure there were no problems with the print.

    Technicians were not just trained to splice a film together, but they maintained the equipment, timed the tabs (curtains) and masking, ensured the beginning of the film was projected correctly for every performance and even set the mood by setting up the spot lights/gels in each theatre so it's a tragedy that these skilled people are now considered a cost to the cinema business and not an asset.

    Having worked in the industry, the people who know me will all tell you I am a nightmare whenever I visit the cinema. I notice everything, sound or picture, and won't stand for a fault to continue. These days that means walking out and speaking to a member of staff around 20% of all films I go to see. I was shocked when the Vue opened in Camberely and they had not even bothered to fit masking to the screens! This means the edge of the film will always be fuzzy/blurred but the fact is that few people notice.

    I still love being in a full house for a tense thriller or comedy but it's becoming harder to justify the cost for sub-standard service. A cinema has one purpose - to project a moving image, so you would think the people who own these businesses would consider it vital to their long term survival that they get this part right. It's a sad day when I can say my home set up gives me a better technical performance than the place purpose built for the job does.

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  • Comment number 47. Posted by shock_rocker

    on 25 Sept 2011 18:21

    could not agree more, I despise the multiplex and would rather travel to see a film in an independant. My feelings are if cinemas were not such awful places there would be less pirarcy.

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  • Comment number 46. Posted by subtitledonline

    on 20 Sept 2011 08:05

    We have a great interview with Mark on our website here: http://www.subtitledonline.com/special-features/mark-kermode

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  • Comment number 45. Posted by Clarkey

    on 18 Sept 2011 06:28

    Loving TGTB&TM. A couple of comments about 3D and subtitles, though. First, you can't have Cantonese *and* Mandarin subtitles: the written languages are the same. One result of this is that nearly everything here in Hong Kong is subtitled, so that whatever Chinese dialect you speak you can watch the film or tv programme. Clearly, 1.2 billion Chinese people can handle reading and watching a screen at the same time.

    This is great but provides another reason to hate 3D. I first experienced this in the dreadful 'Avatar' which featured a little yellow picket fence of Chinese characters bobbing about in front of the screen for the whole of the movies 5 hour running time (okay, it just seemed that long). They seemed to be floating above the first row of seats. It was distracting and annoying in a way that subtitles aren't normally.

    Keep up the wittertainment!

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  • Comment number 44. Posted by spektijim

    on 15 Sept 2011 09:50

    I see a very interesting opportunity here.
    It comes off the back of Mark's comment about investing in cinemas, rather
    than production.
    Perhaps what we need is a rethink of how films and their distributors liaise.
    Think how different the cinema experience would be if the film makers, the big studios, had a definite investment in how a cinema chain presented their films.
    To the extent that, if the projection was not perfect, the atmosphere not properly maintained, theatre-goers could reclaim their money from the studio. They would then be compelled to exert pressure on the cinema chains to make sure things were properly managed.
    Just a thought ;)

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  • Comment number 43. Posted by Sarah Jo

    on 14 Sept 2011 20:43

    My local cinema has 14 screens and I know for a fact that there's only 2, maybe 3, technicians working there in a shift.

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  • Comment number 42. Posted by nicnewman

    on 14 Sept 2011 18:14

    To see how Mark performed at the Oxford Playhouse last night see http://www.oxfordprospect.co.uk/Mark-Kermode-at-the-Oxford-Playhouse.html

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  • Comment number 41. Posted by Rosko

    on 14 Sept 2011 14:41

    iF Kill List does not start to get more widely shown soon, it will just go to demonstrate that these chains are completely out of touch with audiences - that film has the potential to be our generation's Exorcist (and more). It scared the s**t out of me and I'm really not easily shocked.

    As to the projectionist thing, there should always be a member of staff in the building who is at least partially trained to deal with minor problems or at least shut down a malfunctioning screening and move the audience to a different screen. I'm not sure if prolonging the existance of a projectionist job, where someone has to sit through movies constantly watching out for errors, is a step forward. The digital technology should be set up such that it can automatically detect what's needed given the screen size and the video format. I even know how to do that using a laptop and a plug in projector or screen and I'm not trained in any way. The software and technology is already there, it just has to be invested in and set up correctly, possibly checked at the beginning of each day. If a cinema is still using an old-fashioned projector system then they should certainly have more projectionists, but the solution is to encourage or compell them to switch to digital ASAP, as I think the picture quality and experience is actually better anyway - your talking about very high definition 4K digital frame files here - it's more detailed than most people's eyes can detect - if I'm paying £8.50 a ticket, I want the latest technology and a decent choice of films. I don't know which people they are surveying when deciding which films to screen, but it's no-one I know.

    The customer sevice is of course terrible, such as the lack of a system for notifying staff when there is a problem in a screening e.g. an assistance button on the wall to alert staff to distracting behaviour or a projection failure. The food prices are also terrible - they have no-one but themselves to blame if they get hit harder during this recession, as they appear to be.

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  • Comment number 40. Posted by fluffles

    on 12 Sept 2011 18:45

    mrs fluffles and I recently went to our world of cine where I spoke to the manager informing her that the movie was slightly out of focus and way too bright. I was told that "the technician is visiting tomorrow and I will let him know, thank you for telling me"

    another gripe is that world of cine has rows of seats approx 100cm from the screen. whats the point of them ? i cant sit that close to my TV. I Q'd for Avatar and these were the only seats left, I couldn't really see anything in anyD let alone 3D so left and got refunded

    I agree with Mike who posted above, often several screens are taken up showing exactly the same film in different formats. More is less.

    At the moment 2 and 3D smurfs, still harry potter but no Kill List. meh

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