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Friday 7 December 2012, 10:56

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

The multiplex giant Cineworld acquired the Arthouse group Picturehouse this week. Is this good news or bad?

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    Comment number 1.

    If Cineworld's unlimited card is accepted in the Picturehouse cinema's then that's excellent news for me. I get very angry when I can't see foreign and arthouse films at Cineworld. Hopefully this is the case and my anger will desist!

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    Comment number 2.

    There could be a diffusion of more independent, smaller or non-Hollywood films going onto a bigger screen and wider audience. Looking at some of the films which are released in smaller cinemas like Picturehouse which don't get as wide a distribution, perhaps this can be an opportunity for Cineworld to show films like (say) Once Upon a Time in Anatolia or Sightseers to a far wider audience who might not easily get hold of this - learning from Picturehouse in this respect instead of putting on a little-loved honker like Eddie Murphy's Thousand Words which deserves far less attention or critical acclaim. I'm not optimistic of this, but this would be a best-case scenario

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    Comment number 3.

    If we take Cineworld at their word for the moment (all we can do really) then I think this is rather good news. It ensures that Picturehouse cinemas don't die due to the multiplex competition because now they are on the same side.

    Also, as someone else said, if can now use my Cineworld Unlimited card at Picturehouse cinemas I'll be one very happy chappy!

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    Comment number 4.

    I can't say I'm not concerned. I love my local Picture House and has been the place I have seen so many of my favourite films.

    I think they can learn from the loyalty of the art house crowd that Picture House gets. It's not about getting a large numbers of bums on seats but getting those that do go to return time after time. I hope this idea can spread to areas that have yet to have this and CineWorld will be able to bring them the opportunity.

    The main worry I have is that by using the Picture House brand is used as a vehicle to bring mainstream films to the loyal art house crowd and then everyone has less choice.

    I suspect if times get tough for CineWorld - it's the art house crowd that'll suffer first.

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    Comment number 5.

    @ Cieranblonde

    From Picturehouse's website: "Your membership will not be valid at Cineworld cinemas and, likewise, the Cineworld Unlimited Card will not be valid at Picturehouse cinemas."

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    Comment number 6.

    Cieran, I don't believe you'll be able to use your Unlimited Card at Picturehouse, and similarly, Membership for Picturehouse does not translate to receiving any benefits at Cineworld, that's what I read anyway.

    I am a Cineworld Unlimited user, and for it is, I find it fantastic value. I wouldn't be able to see as many films as I do without it, because cinema prices I find are extortionate. Fortunately, living in London there are many Cineworld cinemas, and whilst some are pretty dreadful (Wood Green, Shaftsbury Avenue at Trocadero), there are others such as Haymarket which are perfectly acceptable and do cater for less mainstream films. I was very happy that I was able to see A Royal Affair there.
    What Cineworld could learn is a duty of care towards cinema goers. I saw End of Watch the other day, and as the film started the main lights were still on, and remained on for about 5 minutes whilst people got out of their seats to find a member of staff. Further, they could improve the experience of visiting the cinema by having soundproof walls, so I needn't be bothered by the sound of the film playing in the adjacent screen.
    I don't have a big problem with Cineworld as much as I have a problem with people breaking the Code of Conduct, but little things like that would improve matters. I don't really care about food or beverages because I don't go there to stuff my face with overpriced snacks or drink overpriced bottles of beer.
    I wish the new venture well and that Cineworld and Picturehouse stay true to the statements laid out in their press releases.

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    Comment number 7.

    As long as they keep to there word about keeping the status quo then i think most regulars of picture houses would be happy...but...wanting to "learn from them" as Cineworld says brings deep uncomfort in places im not going to comment on. I would say they should learn to show more independant/foreign cinema, more films which are not just about people in tight spandex which might appeal to those who are repressed in that kinda way...wink wink...nudge nudge and no more remakes from the past. I am currently trying to find some substance to forget they are remaking robocop. I am cynical thou that they will learn and withen time, the mainstream movies will take over and it will be the usual multiplex fodder. Lets hope they do learn thou, because multiplex cinemas will get better for doing so.

    P.S - Odeon is better. ;-)

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    Comment number 8.

    It is normal behaviour in the corporate environment to publicly state, when an acquisition is made, that this is business as usual. Normally this is far from the truth. Following the purchase it is normal to review corporate structure of the new entity and to cut out some of the fat. Management is normally changed and the a new corporate identity is formed from the new business. There is always a loser and it is invariably the smaller of the two parties. In addition there is the opportunity audit the assets and leverage cash where appropriate.

    All of this is a worry to me. I doubt that a picturehouse cinema meaningfully competed against a world-o-cine and yet Cineworld are now in a position to remove that little piece of the landscape away. I can imagine a new world of less competition, rising ticket costs and a further reduction in choice.

    In those picturehouse cinemas that remain I worry that there will be pressure to accept more mass market appeal films and all of the trouble that comes bundled with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    One more thing. How many towns have a Cineworld and a Picture House? I hope this isn't just a way for Cineworld to move into towns they haven't previously been in.

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    Comment number 10.

    London_Imp's phrase there "duty of care" to cinema-goers is to me the stand-out thing here. Cineworld complains that people don't want to pay for their overpriced popcorn and snacks, and ask that no outside food or drink be brought in. But in the Cameo (Edinburgh's Picturehouse), I'd never *dream* of doing that. Why? Because the experience I get when going to see a film at the Cameo is so much nicer. It's got a nice bar, where I'd happily sit for a coffee at meet friends. The staff are super-knowledgeable about films, all films, and amazingly enthusiastic, and that rubs off on everyone who comes. It doesn't in any way feel like an assembly-line / factory experience where the purpose is to get as many bums on seats, shuffling in and out as efficiently as possible.

    Yes, it shows less films, but the films it does choose to show have a much higher quality bar to clear. It feels worthwhile to go and see a film there. It feels like the cinema want you to enjoy these films as much as they do. If you just want to get your eyes on the latest block-buster releases and get out, then go to the Cineworld. If you want a nice night out, to see a great film and then collect in the bar afterwards to discuss it over a nice drink and munchies, then go to a Picturehouse.

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    Comment number 11.

    I sincerely have high hopes for this. Cineworld do have some stuff to learn from Picturehouse, particularly in terms of running projection and pride in that end of the product delivery and perhaps the style of picturehouse which is more adult and pleasant. I do think though that Cineworld have a decent business model that not only allows for great things like the unlimited card but it should be noted that they are really branching out in terms of what they are showing (late night one off screenings of old films, foreign language films, documentaries, concerts etc etc.). As long as they handle the takeover sensitively and treat them as individual concerns instead of amalgamating them indiscriminately then hopefully it can be a beneficial thing. I hope I'm not being over optimistic though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    One thing which it might be is an integration of the Picturehouse brand into Cineworld cinemas, say a dedicated screen at each large Cineworld showing a Picturehouse curated selection of movies? It depends on how much of a Chinese wall they put between the two sides of the business, and requires as much effort to be put into both. In theory, it can work, see Mean Fiddler and Jazz Cafe as two brands ran by the same company as an example. But will it? It says a lot about our trust in multiplexi (I prefer this to multiplexes) that we just don't trust the statements from Cineworld.

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    Comment number 13.

    I have to agree with others that have the unlimited card from Cineworld, it's excellent value, and now it's allowing me to see 3D movies at no extra cost.
    Also Cineworld do try to bring in more diverse films rather than the usual blockbusters, but when they do I normally find myself sitting in an almost empty theatre. I just think these type of movies are better catered in something like a Picturehouse and that's the reason Cineworld don't want to change them. I would rather Cineworld buy it than a Weatherspoons which is what happened to the Embassy theatre that was in our town centre.

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    Comment number 14.

    We don't have one in Manchester so I've no idea what any of you are on about.

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    Comment number 15.

    My hope for Cineworld revolves around the relationship that Picturehouse has with its customers. In recent years my interest in film has increased beyond the norm, thanks for which must be accredited to 'The Podcast'. I am lucky enough to live near to the Ritzy in Brixton, a cinema that impressed with good customer service from staff that actually love film. Second to this is my appreciation of architecture and Ritzy has one of the most attractive theaters going. So taken with it that I approached the cinema and asked if it was possible to photograph the screen. I met with the manager whom was lovely and she arranged a time to meet with..... the projectionist. Having read your recent book, the significance of meeting a dying breed was not lost on me. The experience was further enhanced when the good man agreed to project a night shot taken the previous evening onto the screen. This allowed a panoramic shot to be taken of the screen without the 'time to go' lights switched on. As a result, you can see exactly where the cinema is from the image on screen whilst also being able to see the amazing interior of screen 1.

    None of this would have been possible without the fantastic staff that clearly understand the importance of customer relationships and the cinema experience beyond that of just showing films.

    If anyone is interested, here is the link. Please remember this was a personal project that was enabled by the fantastic staf at the Ritzy Brixton:


    So, to answer your question Mark. My hope for Cineworld is that they recognise the hard work from the staff at Picturehouse and the relationships they have with their customers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    What can this acquisition bring to Cineworld? Hopefully a bit more of the art house mentality. That is to say:

    1. show films because they are good not because they are "popular" (whatever that means)

    2. have a decent bar/cafe/restaurant for pre- and post-pictuire food and beverage

    3. do NOT allow food and drink into the auditorium - you are there to watch a movie not stuff your face (think of the converse scenario - how would it feel if you went out with your loved one for a nice meal in a lovely restaurant and the guy on the table next door pulled out a laptop in the middle of his and your meal and watched Die Hard 13 without even the courtesy of using headphones!?)

    4. show seasons of films such that a current release can be referenced to its heritage and genre by also showing great films of years gone by where they deserve to be seen - in a cinema

    Does all this sound a bit elitist? I hope so because I love film and so much of what goes on in the likes of Cineworld just spoils it for me I'm afraid.

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    Comment number 17.

    I had my first experience of Picturehouse only a few months ago. As a regular cinema visitor (usually multiplex) my observations are

    1. Location My Picturehouse in Stratford on Avon is in the town. Sunday morning showings can be followed or preceded by a walk around the town. This means if we want to grab a bite to eat we don't have to go to the usual fast food over priced franchise outlets which share the "out of town retail park" locations where alot of Cineworld are.

    2. Staff - At Picturehouse The staff in the cinema are pleasant, helpful and seem to share my love of film. This compared to the staff at most Cineworld who often seem unitelligent and lacking in simple customer service skills.

    3. Film Selection - Foreign language options seem to me to be more readily available at Picturehouse. The last movie we went to see at Picturehouse was Armour a brilliant film which left my wife and I with a real feeling of empathy with the characters. I would not have seen this if it was not for Picturehouse.

    4. Clubs - Picturehouse have film showings for pensioners, students, new mums even where they can enjoy a film with their very small rug rats and not worry about the crying/noise making bundle of joys disturbing the other attendees.

    Please please Cineworld do learn from Picturehouse and don't just use it to rape all the good things about them.

    We film buffs are more interested in seeing those obscure titles than watching the latest A lister heavy Hollywoord Blockbuster movie in the latest Hidef super surround sound tech.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I think Cineworld gets a bit of a bad rep. Yes, they're a multiplex, but the Unlimited Card offer they do is not only excellent value, but they also have the kind of perks on offer that go above and beyond those a number of local community-driven independent cinemas offer. The Cineworld I visit regularly (Over 100 times this year) is, admittedly, badly staffed, but the range of films they show is pretty good. Small British films and foreign-language pictures tend to be in amongst the blockbusters, with a surprisingly large amount of Bollywood films getting decent amounts of attention. I, on the other hand, have never been to a Picturehouse, so can't really comment on what they could learn from them, but I don't see all that much open for the chain to pick up. At least the people at the top of Cineworld seem to care about cinema, even if those serving me my tickets don't.

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    Comment number 19.

    I live near to a 10 screen multiplex, pay for their monthly unlimited access and find it great value. They do however seem to hold a odd impression of ther customers. Despite their live screenings of National Theatre plays being well attended as are their one off screenings of classic films (when they reach us) there is an attitude that locals will only go for lowest common denominator films.
    Perhaps I'm missing something on the finance side but I don't understand why they will show the latest blockbuster hit to a handful of people three times an evening and yet to give a recent example only be able to show Rust and Bone at 12:30 on working days. Most of my film highlights of the year were not even shown at my local cinema.
    There's an audience of film literate viewers out there who want to watch films beyond endless showings of the latest blockbuster, hopefully linking up with Picturehouse might give Cineworld some guidance on tapping in to the market.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Having been a Cineworld Unlimited card holder for the past two years I can honestly say that this is great news for independent cinemas. My local one is Glasgow and there are two brilliant independent cinemas in the area (GFT and The Grosvenor) which I try to visit as often as I can (My next visit is "It's a Wonderful Life at the GFT.

    I feel multiplexes get a bad reputation as I have been able to see a wide variety of Black and White, Foreign films etc at Cineworld. Even if that means putting up with the latest 3D Superhero film clogging up the majority of screens. The staff at Glasgow Renfield Street have always been superb and welcoming.

    It's not a simple case of independent cinemas being good and multiplexes being bad, its about the standard of films, running of the cinema and staff. All of which have been equally as brilliant in the different forms of Cinemas.

    Two things you can't stop in cinema terms - Rise of Digital and Capitalism. As long as it is a continued improvement then I'll be happy.

    Long live celluloid!


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