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Mark Kermode Mark Kermode | 10:56 UK time, Friday, 7 December 2012

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!

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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."

  • 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.

  • 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. ;-)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Comment number 14.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Comment number 21.

    I've been going to the Bolton Cineworld since it opened (er, when it was a Virgin Cinema in fact!) and love it. The staff are friendly and knowledgable, keen to help and good to chat to. The manager knows his stuff and knows his customers, and there's a good range of films. People in Bolton go to the Vue for the blockbusters so there's usually more of a slightly eclectic range at the Cineworld - which I see with the great value Unlimited card.

    But it's not perfect, and the thing Cineworld can learn is to put the film first: programme good films, and make sure watching them is an enjoyable experience. This means ensuring people follow the Code of Conduct, that the projection is top-notch, and that the they don't try to hurry you in and out so they can shift more popcorn. Follow this simple plan and everything else will be fine - customers will want to spend more time there, spend more money. It's all good.

    As for the "food and drink options" mentioned in the press release, it's probably a case that if PictureHouse use Cineworld's suppliers they'll get a better deal and better profits. I think that's the area most likely to change for PictureHouse users, but it works both ways: an arthouse distributor now might be able to get on a few more screens. Here's hoping!

  • Comment number 22.

    My immediate gut reaction to this news was one of trepidation, especially given my snobbish anti-pop culture predispositions. However, one example of a move akin to this working is with HMV's acquisition of Scottish record store chain - Fopp.

    Fopp has always been a staple for music and movie fans across Scotland, and following an overenthusiastic expansion plan, which led to all the stores closing for a short period, HMV came in and reopened a small number of stores.

    The stores in Edinburgh and Glasgow are back open, and appear to be performing strongly in the current climate, while maintaining their heritage of appealing to the independent market. Although, it has lost some of its indie cred, it is nice to know that this store is still about, and is as popular as ever. It is always my first choice, particularly given their positive approach to stocking vinyl.

    A worrying aside to this story is that a new management practice has been put in place with HMV, and along with a new no tattoo policy being applied to all staff, it would appear that they are wanting to replace the non-uniform requirement for staff in Fopp stores. My impression of this proposed move is exactly why we are naturally suspicious of the big corps taking the reins of smaller, indie companies. Replacing the charm, and personality with an established, ambassadorial approach to staffing.

    It's nice to know the Picturehouse's future is safe, but I hope they respect what we know and love about these cinemas.

  • Comment number 23.

    My local Picturehouse cinema is in Stratford in east London, which competes against the soulless multiplex in the nearby Westfield shopping mall. To in answer the specific question you posed, Mark, here's a few things Cineword could learn:

    1. How to treat people like people

    Over the last couple of years, I've been recovering from a serious traffic accident that eventually meant I needed a replacement shoulder joint (thanks for the best wishes from Mark and Simon on the radio, by the way, whilst I was in hospital). Every time I visit my local Picturehouse, the staff always make a point of asking about the latest developments in my recuperation and whether there is any help I might need. In a multiplex, it is often hard to get anyone to register me as a person with a disability, never mind remember who I am. This doesn't just happen by accident – it comes from employing staff who care about their job, who aren't paid minimum wage or treated like just another commodity.

    2. How to engage with film enthusiasts

    As well as treating customers well, my local Picturehouse also seems to understand that many of its members are huge cinephiles. Last year, a group of friends decided we would to try and arrange a screening of a fairly obscure US documentary because the director was over in the UK. We met the Picturehouse manager, our arguments carefully honed but fully expecting to be knocked back. Instead we were told, “sure, if you can get an audience, we're happy to take a risk”. In the event, it was the single most popular weekday screening of that week. Can you imagine a multiplex taking that sort of gamble?

    3. How to engage with the surrounding community

    My local Picturehouse is more that 'just' a cinema. It holds events with authors in collaboration with the local Newham Bookshop, it has worked with local charities supporting people who are isolated and, for members, its bar is regularly used as a place to meet. I work for a local charity and often arrange to meet people there for a coffee and a chat, or just spend some time working (using the free wi-fi) without necessarily seeing a film, although I often do too. I could never imagine the same relaxed attitude at any of the local multiplex cinemas.

  • Comment number 24.

    I am a member of cameo cinema Edinburgh, in my view finest screen venue in our city. Given that this cinema was at risk of closing recently I should I guess be pleased by secure funding. What I want from new owner is no interference. This cinema has a fine tradition of merging art house films with mainstream stuff such as Skyfall and diverse events like live opera. If they leave the artistic choices to the individual cinema and not throw nasty radioactive nachos into our theatre then well and good. But if Adam Sandler and head throbbing 3d enters the scene then its adios to my membership. Cheers.

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm a former Cineworld card-holder and current Hackney Picturehouse member, and I can safely say there is a whole lot to learn. During a screening of Four Lions in the (fairly classy) Haymarket Cineworld, a fight broke out, my boyfriend tried to calm things down, and he ended up in A&E with a three-inch shard of glass in his hand.

    As much as I'd love to see a Cineworld Card type scheme for Picturehouses, I can't really see how it would be economically feasible - by their nature, independent/foreign/arthouse films attract fewer people, so to make it profitable for the cinema it would probably be a pretty expensive monthly card. But hey, I'm not an economist.

    Some really simple stuff CW can learn from PH:
    1) Don't sell food that smells too strong. The waft of gherkins permeates throughout CW screens.
    2) Don't put toilets right next to the screens, otherwise the audience can hear the hand dryers.
    3) Occasionally play an old classic, it's fun.
    4) The adverts which you have to sit through before every single screening - if there really have to be so many, please make them as un-annoying as possible. If I see Jack Black doing the Orange advert about switching off your phone one more time I will cry.

    I guess if Picturehouses were struggling and this keeps them afloat, it's a bitter pill to swallow but we need to just accept it. But please, keep it classy, San Diego.

  • Comment number 26.

    I don't get some of the snobbishness over Cineworld myself. Sure their cinemas aren't exactly the Ritz but for cine lovers on a low income the Unlimited card (a distinct advantage Cineworld has over their competitors) which lets you see as many films you want for £15 a month is a must have. My gf and I both have one, not everyone can afford to go see films regularly in a plush arthouse cinema with fancy seats. Unless you're a film critic which is where unsurprisingly most of the criticism of this new deal seems to be coming from.

    Hopefully in Cineworld can ensure that Picturehouse retain their distinctiveness while extending the Unlimited card to these venues. If so then you can expect these smaller, independent films to get much larger audiences. It wont really affect us though as our local multiplex shows plenty of indie films.

  • Comment number 27.

    Here Here, for being able to use the membership card.
    And if they're planning on building more, can they stick one somewhere near Barnsley. I'm p***ed off with reading reviews for films and never getting to watch them on the big screen.

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm a regular Cineworld user and the only reason I use them is because of their Unlimited Card. Being able to see as much cinema as I like for £15 a month makes it possible to see most new releases where otherwise it would be too expensive. If Cineworld was to extend this offer to include Picture House that would be a great outcome from the takeover.

    More importantly what Cineworld can learn from Picture House is endless. Customer Service at Cineworld (at Wolverhampton at least) is completely woeful, often several staff members are stood around while one serves on the only open till and the Box Office counter only opens when they are expecting a large crowd (Orange Wednesdays). There are no ushers in any of the screens and no attempt to run anything other than a cut-price babysitting service.

    What Cineworld can learn is a respect for cinema, that their most valuable customers are the cineasts who often have much more disposable income and with an offer akin to somewhere like The Electric in Brum (Not Picture House, but similar vibe) will happily part with £20 a head for a decent cinema with comfortable seating, no talking and a couple of glasses of wine.

  • Comment number 29.

    I bought a Cineworld Unlimited Card about 18 months ago – it was a decision I regretted very quickly. I often missed screening starts due to long queues and slow, lazy staff. I had to complain frequently about poor projection, and when problems occurred with screenings, staff were like headless chickens trying to solve the problem.

    Yet, over the past six months, things seem to have slowly improved. Projection has largely been better; a drive to increase online ticketing has reduced queues, and even the staff seem to broadly be better mannered. There even seems to be a small increase in art house, foreign language and re-release screenings.

    So maybe Cineworld aren’t being entirely disingenuous, perhaps they are becoming more aware of the value of providing a quality experience for their customers, and not just getting them through the door and packing them in.

    Sadly though, I doubt they’re going to change their policy on food – whenever someone sits next to me with a stinking, noisy tub of nachos, it’s as if the movie has been spoilt already.

  • Comment number 30.

    @ #8. Gav wrote:

    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.

    Correct: Don't listen to what they SAY look at what they DO:

    SAYS: "We want to "learn" from picturehouse"
    DOES "We are building x10 new picturehouses & selling our rip-off food."

    lip-service vs business.

    Tbh some of the Picturehouses seems to have sold out on it's showing what you'd see at cineworld already anyway. But the excellent service, staffed by people who look like they want to be there and enjoy films: I'm happy to pay a bit more for a pinto in such an intimate environment - AND - you cannot scale that up which is what Cineworld has with it's cinemas:

    1) Shopping Maul
    2) Massive Car Parking
    3) 22 Screens showing 10 runs a day of 50 movies
    4) Staffed by minimum wage staff
    5) Several chain restaurants nearby

    = Convenience and bums on seats showing all the major marketed blockbusters which are guaranteed to be popular with the visititors = good custom and what the public paying expect. Cineworld is probably awesome for some who drive in or have a large family and want to do some grocery shoppinig atst etc. The advantages for cineworld customers is cheaper more convenient big releases at all times visit to the flicks.

    Adding some gimmick marketing idea retrofitted from the atmosphere of smaller cinemas is not going to do anything other than give marketing some more ammunition, while accounts is busy massaging cost structures of the business and the "Chiefs" are looking at their investment/property portfolios for their business. At a certain scale it's a different organisation and therefore a different customer experience and service.

    It's all business driven. Perhaps Film Clubs are the future of cinema. Speaking of which...
  • Comment number 31.

    They say they won't change anything, but is that really the point? Going to independent cinemas that show art house or foreign language films, for me, is an experience. I just don't think it will be the same knowing that the money I pay for my cinema ticket is going towards the new Transformers movie.

  • Comment number 32.

    I have a friend who works at Cineworld and one who works at Picturehouse and I feel the main thing Cineworld could learn is how to treat their staff better. Not only for the staff's sake but also for customers. I find when I am dealing with staff who seem happy and content my cinema experience is a lot more enjoyable too.

  • Comment number 33.

    Curzon Soho is understood to be an arthouse cinema. Considering that people are very often able to see the same films that it is showing also at the Cineworld Haymarket, is the latter an arthouse cinema as well? Or is it Curzon Soho not exactly an arthouse cinema anymore? What is an arthouse cinema these days?

  • Comment number 34.

    While I'm going to reserve judgement until the "outcome" becomes clearer. But, initially, I cannot help feeling cynical. I rather suspect that money will speak volumes and money does NOT mean good quality.

  • Comment number 35.

    My initial thought was financial security for Picture House. I actually quite like Cineworld, they show one of the widest breadth of films in my area of East/West Sussex. However, one thing I hate about Cineworld are the hugely distracting, piercingly bright health and safety lightbulbs they have in the ceiling. So if they start installing those into the Duke Of York's in Brighton, I won't be happy.

  • Comment number 36.

    ... sticky carpets, uncomfortable seats, truculent staff, boisterous patrons with no manners, Maltesers at £5 a packet... Take my advice, unless it's 100% necessary, avoid your local ER department on Saturday nights.

  • Comment number 37.

    This news depressed me. Whilst i'm all in favour of big screen multiplex entertainment with Imax screens and all the pizazz that comes with it, the Picturehouse chain was a throwback to the more caring small screen cinema experience of yesteryear where the cinema's cared about customer service with a less corporate atmosphere and memorable architecture to boot. If Cineworld leave things as they are (which i seriously doubt!) then i'll give them more credit than they currently deserve. This takeover depresses me even more as the old 3 screen ABC cinema in my town,long defunct but was still standing, has started to be demolished to make way for a hotel. The big corporation's have taken over nearly everything these days. People remember their movie going experiences in cinema's like the picturehouse's will you remember in ten years time where you saw "Skyfall" i doubt it.

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm a bit gutted to be honest. However, Picturehouse marketing was/is terrible. They don't tell you anything that's going on at your local cinema even though they've got your name, address, email, everything. They send out random badly worded circulars that look like they were produced in the 80s. Meanwhile, you've missed a free screening, a Q&A with a notable director and you've received two different magazines on upcoming films. So I hope Cineworld will bring that knowledge to Picturehouse. I really hope they don't mess with the film programming though which is pretty much perfect.

  • Comment number 39.

    What should they learn? How about that there is an audience for films aimed at people with IQs above room temperature?

  • Comment number 40.

    (This is a bit of a ramble.) One of the lovely things about our local Picturehouse is the friendliness and the fact the staff are people who really love cinema, not folk who took the job because it was going. What bothers me about Cineworld's investment is what went wrong with the Kraft takeover of Cadbury. Kraft said they wouldn't close the Bristol factory but that's exactly what happened. Cineworld say it won't change but the multiplex has a stronger financial hand so unless they honestly mean it, I worry world and independent cinema will become token things and we'll just end up with 3 multiplexes in our town instead of 2. IF they manage to do a Fopp (where HMV own the branches now but retained the staff and didn't close most of the stores) it might just be OK.)

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    Basic rule of thumb: every time someone promises you more, you're pretty much guaranteed to get less. If a sequel promises to be "bigger and better", it'll be weaker and duller. If a multiplex promises more screens for more films (as they did), it'll mean less choice for consumers (which it has).

    Last month I wrote a piece about the Disney acquisition of Star Wars being terrible from an industrial standpoint, as it represented a further reliance on brand and reduction in choice and variety (read it here if you're interested: This is just another example of that trend. What's most depressing is that, outside of us film fans, nobody cares. We are living in the death throes of the cinema experience, and there seems to be precious little we can do about it.

  • Comment number 44.

    My hope is they learn that nobody ever said, "You know what, I liked this movie, but I wish I could've seen the 3D version".

  • Comment number 45.

    #4. Left Wing Cross said

    "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."

    In my experience as a member of the Exeter Picturehouse is that this is exactly what has been happening over the last couple of years anyway. Films like Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises have monopolised the schedules whilst Non-English Language and independent films have been increasingly sidelined. Admittedly there has been an increase in the number of "art house" films and remastered classics, (due to the installation and implementation of digital distribution and projection, which I believe is an outcome of the subsidy offered to chains like Picturehouse for installing the expensive digital equipment) but such films are as likely to be limited to a couple of screenings at ridiculous times of the day as they are to be shown in a prime scheduling slot.

    On the positive side, as many contributors mention, is the attitude of the staff which is generally enthusiastic and helpful, and the Picturehouse has also been attempting to embrace certain groups of cinema goers, offering pensioners ans students exceptional deals. They have managed to limit the food intake to the bar, so whilst expanding their menus customers appear to shy away from eating pizza in the theatre.

    My main gripe is the price of wine, starting at a hyper-inflated £5.95 for a large glass of plonk, rising to something unmentionable for a Peruvian Cabernet Shiraz. This might be where, (as somebody else earlier warned against) Wetherspoons could actually have offered a slightly improved business model. £7 for a decent bottle of red wine to drink with your friend or partner whist catching the latest Wong Kar Wai or Apichatpong Weerasethakul film would be heaven. At the moment one is reduced to filling up a water bottle with a decent priced supermarket plonk to make the evening out affordable!

    On a more serious note, as long as Cineworld are aware of the loyalty Picturehouse engenders in its customers and the lack of moronic popcorn-eating, smartphone-obsessed teenagers buying tickets for the latest teen puke-fest then I will be happy.

  • Comment number 46.

    Sadly ive rarely had a good experience watching films anywhere other than in a Picturehouse.
    And after watching Skyfall in my local Odeon, and having it spoiled by one of their staff walking in and milling around at the side of the screen in the climactic final 15 mins, ive sworn off going near a multiplex ever again.
    So if this news means that Picturehouse are going to get the means to stay independant of that kind of buffoonery then i'm all for it.
    I just hope Cineworld recognise that Picturehouse cater to specific niche and a specific audience. Not necessarily all arthouse but at least a good mix. There is money to be made by catering to that demographic. Not every film fan likes only one kind of film. I enjoy seeing double bills of arthouse/blockbusters, so as long as they aren't tempted to suddenly favour the latter over the former this might not be the end of the world.
    However, A lifetime of cynicism and corporate mistrust tells me that as soon as the balance sheets take a downturn they will go straight for the lowest common denominator.

  • Comment number 47.

    This gets a blog entry, whereas the similar Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm - 2012's biggest movie news - does not. Oookay.

  • Comment number 48.

    i don't see the problem, i go to cineworld glasgow and the glasgow film theatre and actually cineworld shows a lot of the independent and foreign films and there are a lot of films that are shown in both cinemas, also the advertising at the start of any film in cineworld and the gft are the same, so arthouse and mainstream are not as far apart as you my think.

  • Comment number 49.

    I'd be surprised if they stuck by their word. An untouched Picturehouse chain with Cineworld's backing sounds great, but the sad truth is that it'll probably make more sense, financially, to mess around with them.

    So unless people flock to see the films at Picturehouse in the next few weeks, I'd expect change.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think there will be big differences in what happens where there's a Picturehouse cinema within shouting distance of a Cineworld, as there is here in Cambridge, and where there's no Cineworld nearby. Unless a nearby Cineworld needs to use the Picturehouse as an overflow because some blockbuster is selling out every performance, I think Cineworld will try to divert the showing of blockbusters to their multiplexes, with the result that we may get more non-mainstream programming at the Picturehouse, not less.

    Generally, I like Cineworld's recent approach, including the Unlimited card and - in particular - discounts for booking online, not "booking fees". Respect to them for that. But what could they *learn* from Picturehouse cinemas? Giving staff some responsibility and allowing them to use their initiative is what separates the two chains in my experience. Picturehouse staff seem able to make things happen. At Cineworld, whenever anything goes wrong, it's always a case of "sorry, there's nothing we can do about it", which drives me mad.

  • Comment number 51.

    It's a little bit dodgy that they needed to buy them out in order to learn from them. that's like stealing somebody's test in school and saying "hey! I'm learning from you". Picturehouse probably did on the other hand need a lot more funding. This is a conversation that's a little out of my depth because I live and watch movies in Cornwall and getting quality cinema here is like getting disease free blood from a sewer rat. The Master for example didn't show AT ALL down here, not at all. killing them softly showed in one cinema in Cornwall for two days and they had a nice showing of Lawrence of Arabia to celebrate the blu-ray release for one day at 6:30 how that happened is a miracle.
    The thing that I hope they learn is that people are interested in arthouse cinema more so than they have been in a very long time and that there are people in cornwall that want to watch these films too. Really when i state that the Master .. The Master the biggest academy contender this year (or at least it should be, probably, I haven't seen it, how could have I) didn't show in ONE wtw cinema across cornwall. does your jaw not drop to the ground. you were at the Cornish film festival Kermode. Have words will you.

  • Comment number 52.

    The obvious answer to the question is nothing. If Picturehouse were all that and making decent money they wouldn't need to be selling out to a major. Also, I'm looking at the listings for my local Picturehouse and my local Coneworld and what do I see? Cineworld is playing all the same films more often and then around ten additional films.
    My guess is that it's a smart move by Cineworld to raise market share by taking the kinda people who don't go to multiplexes. They don't get to be the number one cinema circuit by not knowing the business. They will know that there is a tiny proportion of people who (for either good or snobbish ) reason will not go to multiplexes.
    I'm certain that people who are up in arms about this aren't worried about range of film or customer service or even presentation...they are worried about the typical multiplex customer maybe coming into their buildings. I don't blame them. I go to a lot of films and honestly I don't care about how friendly the staff are or anything else. All I care about is the film and virtually the only thing that ever spoils my enjoyment is my fellow customers and that is based entirely on the type of film.
    I saw Kings Speech in a multiplex and it was fantastic, I had a nightmare with kick-Ass with people on phones etc. it's no good saying the multiplex should have staff in there making things better. Who, n miminum wage, wants to be getting into grief ridden situation? It reminds me of stewards at football matches. If something actually happens, they aren't going to get in the way are they?
    As long as Cineworld keep the Picturehouse name and don't allow the Unlimited card, the type of people who make watching films miserable wouldn't dream turning up.

  • Comment number 53.

    Maybe they'll at least finally fix the popcorn machine at Harbour Lights. I know you don't appreciate the snacks, but its just about the only place that cinemas, including art-house make their money. Popcorn has to be their highest margin, it's like paying for oxygen, and it's my preferred way to subsidize my favorite cinema.

    In terms of lessons learned: I might hope that one lesson that might be unlearned by Picturehouse, is their current need to screen bigger films which are already clogging multiplex screens, whether this to take a slice of potential cash cows (to support their more niche programming), or as a result of pressure from the distributors. Not to say that I don't prefer to see good popular films in the relative comfort and sanity of my local Picturehouse, I do. But I have found it disheartening, to be in a half full, or even less screening of a film that is on at least 6 or 7 other screens in the vicinity, and because these films get locked in for a few weeks, they only really do well on the really really big ones (yer Skyfall's and King Speech's and Marigold Hotel's). At the same time films like Berberian Sound Studio get furtive, sporadic, blink and you'll miss it exposure. If, Cineworld has made the acquisition to grow and promote Picturehouse as a more distinctive "arty" brand, then perhaps they will shield them from unfavorable deals with distributors, and allow them to do more of what they do well, instead of being reliant on importing the Multiplex playlist half the time to keep the wolf from the door.

    It would be nice if multiplex staff had half the charm or sense of engagement that the Picturehouse lot do, but it's hard to see how that would translate. I can understand why the Picturehouse folk might have a stronger sense of purpose, showing films to an audience who appreciate them, as opposed to the audience who want to seem some stuff blown up between their tea and the pub or club. On a much much smaller scale, I show films in village halls, and my audience may merely be the old dears of the southwestern counties, but they thank me sometimes so profusely it's almost as if I'd made the film myself for their sole benefit. So on some level I can see why the Picturehouse staff might be more switched on. But perhaps the sense of care and attention has to start somewhere, and if you could somehow imbue multiplex front of house with an attitude that doesn't only involve upselling drinks and popcorn (for an extra pound we'll give you a drink 5x your bladder capacity), and perhaps really conveys offering a viewing experience better than you could now get at home, then Cineworld and their audience might be able to learn.

  • Comment number 54.

    reading the comments so far, seems to suggest that cineworld could learn from providing cinemas which have their own unique and individual style and amenities offered that caters to a different crowd of people far removed from the rowdy, chavvy, working class masses who cant afford wine at £7 a glass that seems to be Cineworld's customer base (not braying yummy mummies in Clapham).
    But seriously, cineworld has a big crowd of serious film fans in the unlimited membership - over 300k members (see there accounts) I am one and they do show a wide range of films as you have to go at least 2-3 times a month and therefore you cant just be watching mainstream films at cineworld. Cineworld is renowned for bollywood and my polish mates have seen polish films not shown anywhere else in London.
    What cineworld can learn from, apart from the obvious customer service, is how to talk the part in the way the "art house" crowd does and possibly then spread film to a much wider audience (though imho they do it the best amongst the big chains)
    but the most important thing is to keep picturehouse as a seperate chain with its cinemas having their own identity and that they dont make it into a faceless multiplex style. interesting picturehouse also has a membership scheme - best to keep the 2 seperate film going factions apart! Different ideologies but same objectives
    Ultimately this takeover is the best of a number of evils. Art house has been shrinking and becoming more insular and if picturehouse and art house was thriving, then the sale would never have happened. Can we revisit this discussion in 18 months time?

  • Comment number 55.

    I was originally minded to say that I doubt that Cineworld would want to learn anything from Picturehouse in terms of programming, to some degree the difference is part of the difference in "branding". However, there are certainly some aspects of art or rep cinema that could sit within a multiplex scenario if handled well.

    In the '80's just before VHS, I worked in a three screen cinema that was cheek by jowl to an inner city University campus. The chain allowed the manager to use one of the screens as a dedicated rep, probably with little or marginal success.

    However, this approach could work in a bigger multiplex if the programming is done to suit the multiplex audience. Mixed martial arts may be the latest slap 'em up, but how about some seasons of the original martial arts, Shaw Brothers, Bruce Lee, etc. There could be generations hungry to see the gems of HK cinema up there on a big screen.

    Disney originally had a dedicated re-release program for their films, which ceased due to home video, but which has had a slight come back in the form of 3-deification. For kids of a certain age, who've sat through the videos multiple times at home, going to see what they love on a big screen could be an occasion, and for parents who've learned to tune out the repetition, a sure fire pleaser for their kids, and a nap for themselves. There's a huge back catalog of films for kids that with exceptions like a seasonal outing for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Mary Poppins, wouldn't otherwise be seen.... If I mentioned "dougal and the blue cat", I'd be pandering to resident tastes here, but some fondly remembered bits of our childhood could be offered to a new generation. The upside for the multiplexes would be that the films should have much lower leasing costs than current releases, and a tried and tested built in audience.

    For those cinemas in the chain that are in areas which don't already have an indie, Picturehouse, Everyman or some other venue du "art", Cineworld could perhaps "brand" a few of their screens as "Picturehouse" and run their programming. They could use this method to test the local appetite for the separate Picturehouse venue, if, as they state they're thinking of investing in creating new ones. If it merely works on its own merits, we'd see less complaints here of people having to drive a hundred miles to an urban centre to see the latest alternative or foreign language offering.

    With the evolution of distribution becoming fractured by new delivery methods and the quality of the home experience, the multiplexes may need to look very seriously at this sort of diversification. Perhaps in some future we'll all go to a cinema to what we want to see, flashmob style, regardless of what its artistic profile is, or when it was released.

  • Comment number 56.

    From my experience of Cineworld (which was lengthy up to a few years ago), I think there is much to learn from Picturehouse.

    A staff that is passionate about film, rather than a bunch of students only there for a job is the main one.

    Also, films being displayed correctly on the screen, no sound bleeding from other screens, less of a focus on the shop at the front of the cinema. I know Cineworld aren't the only ones guilty of this, but even in comparison to the likes of Odeon and Vue, I always found them to be a shabby cinema experience.

    I can only hope that Cineworld stick to their word and leave Picturehouse to it, but I do worry what may happen a few years down the road...

  • Comment number 57.

    Last year I worked at the Cineworld on Shaftesbury Avenue. Regarded as one of the worst cinemas in London. As a huge film fan and cinema lover, I found it massively frustrating to be a part of. Most of the managers didn't give a damn about film, or the cinema experience. Everyone was so demotivated. Almost every shift I worked, something would go wrong, and us lowly team members had no power/knowledge to fix anything. Cineworld really need to hire managers who are dedicated to the cinema experience, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to money. The low income they receive and lack of respect from the higher up management is what de-motivates them, which then carries on down to the staff on the floor. CINEWORLD - Look after your staff!

  • Comment number 58.

    It's really quite straightforward.

    All Cineworld need to learn, (and Vue and Odeon would do well to pay attention also), is that cinema goers are not exclusively eligible for an under 21 sporting team.

    I am not asking anyone to ignore younger audiences and neither am I so daft as to fail to recognise the commercial imperative of providing mass market films to a mass market audience, (no matter how unappetising I may find that prospect), I am simply asking that proprietors recognise that there is a significant audience that wants to watch cinema in an adult environment.

  • Comment number 59.

    As a Glasgow resident my worry is that one of their new builds will be here (we are currently Picturehouse free). I don't doubt that they'd offer something new, but Glasgow's independent cinemas are small and few and I'm unsure they could stand the competition from a Cineworld Picturehouse. I'd hate to see them have to close! So my lesson would be: have a heart when it comes to where you expand.

  • Comment number 60.

    I think 'learn' is the wrong term.
    If there's a single thing Cineworld needs to learn, it's how to properly maintain a cinema. I can't remember the last entirely clean, comfortable and helpful Cineworld branch I've entered. Usually I find the Haymarket one to be the best by that's not the point I'm trying to make.

    Many people are saying about the expansion of the unlimited card to Picturehouse cinemas; yes, this will be great for many and save you more cash, plus you'll be able to consume a greater number of arthouse and foreign films. However that £15 odd a month will be going into Cineworld's pockets, not Picturehouse's.

    Even if this business move increases financial stability for the company, soon enough ticket sales at Picturehouse cinemas will rapidly decrease. If I ever see a closing sign hanging on the Duke of York's in Brighton; the oldest functioning cinema in the UK, then I'll lose all hope.

  • Comment number 61.

    As a regular visitor of both I have mixed feelings about this. But my local Picturehouse I go to for a wide range of films, from Bond to Twilight to arthouse. I think Cineworld could learn that an actual cafe with decent food and a seating area is always nice. Thanks god Odeon didn't buy Picturehouse is all I can say, with their creeping 'premier seat' class system, terrible projection record in the smaller ones and staid atmosphere. Also, Cineworld can learn to listen to staff and let them wear what they like, and value their opinions on what should be scheduled would be nice. And pay them a decent wage! (No I don't work in a cinema but I have).

  • Comment number 62.

    Without repeating what's already been covered, just wish to add that as far as my nearest screens go in Southampton the Cineworld actually gives the 'multiplex' a worse name than it already has! Poor staffing with zero technical talent and some of the worse projection quality I've seen! I avoid it as much as possible. The Picturehouse (very close by) on the other hand is a much more enjoyable experience altogether, very friendly staff, great films (the only place nearby to see indie and foreign films)... and I believe they still have a projectionist! On that note I do hope that Cineworld will not interfere and start running Picturehouses like a miniature cineworld with no projectionist, just popcorn sellers!!

    That said, outside of London Picturehouse have not been spending anything like enough cash in the cinemas, can't speak for others but Harbour could certainly do with a decent facelift throughout, perhaps even improved seats which aren't the most comfortable - but a facelift without changing the key principles. If this happens then that could be an advantage of the takeover. The current Picturehouse promo (I believe showing-off the Ritzy Brixton?) portrays them all as being classy; it would be fantastic if this was rolled out to all PH cinemas outside of London, and indeed we could do with a few more (speaking from the New Forest always though Lymington could do with a cinema!).

    If as they are telling us, the two remain separate and the new owners genuinely wish to enter into the 'independent film' domain (for the right reasons), and are willing to spend some money and take it seriously, then there may be a positive element to this, maybe!

  • Comment number 63.

    Is this not a reaction to VUE purchasing Apollo Cinemas? The multiplexes have been branching out with their own luxury arthouse experiments recently with Odeon Whitely's Lounge and Cineworld's own Cheltenham Screening Rooms. Maybe they thought it would be quicker and easier to buy an existing beloved brand instead. Also Cineworld outside of London tends to be in out of town leisure parks where as Picturehouse have attractive city centre locations. Hopefully this will improve the Cineworld experience instead of ruining Picturehouse.

  • Comment number 64.

    Let's not all jump to conclusions. This may be great news for those who use multiplexes, if Cineworld really wants to learn:
    - better distribution possibilities for the more successul arthouse and foreign films, thus introducing a bigger audience to the arthouse experience.
    - a more personal touch at the multiplex. Less plastic, more authenticity.
    - a closer relationship with the customer. Less 'we know what's good for you', more 'what do you want from this experience?'.
    Go on Cineworld. Show us we are wrong to be sceptical....

  • Comment number 65.

    Calm down, Dear. Big business has learned not to meddle too much when acquiring independent businesses. I attend Ritzy in Brixton and it is one of the UK's finest cinemas. Knowing it is now more financially secure, is good news. The arguments against is just nimbyism. We are in financially precarious times people, survival is priority.

  • Comment number 66.

    The idea of watching my beloved local Picturehouse become more like my loathsome local Cineworld is horrifying.
    I am imagining Katharine Hepburn's beautiful face slowly expanding, drooping, separating in the middle, becoming the shape of Donald Trump's catastrophic arse.

  • Comment number 67.

    Cineworld seem like the best of a bad bunch in the multiplex gang. The unlimited membership offer has been a fantastic tool for a few of my fellow cinema loving buddies to see everything Hollywood has to offer and it's reduces the frustration factor when you go to see something that turns out to be god awful. Rubbish films can be fun if you aren't furious about how much it cost you to see it!

    I was once lucky enough to work as an usher at one of the less charming multiplex brands and I would regularly argue with regional managers at annual review meetings about the flaw in their logic of showing low grossing low brow fare over art house cinema. I am not one to turn my nose at a low brow film but would have been happy to have my fair share of both (or a low brow arthouse film - hello Iron Sky!)

    It was a real event when we managed to get a print of Pan's Labyrinth and the screens were packed with subtitle hungry suburbanites who would usually have to commute to London for a taste of such an unusual movie. I am very much of the belief that the bigger the brand the blander the products on offer. If you are trying to please the average punter you will no doubt offer them safe average films. Usually when we did get something away from the mainstream it would be because it was potentially Oscarworthy and therefore more likely to be dull!

    There is obviously a hunger for 'proper' cinema in towns with no art house cinema and perhaps there is a ray of hope with this merge. The worry is more in the effect it may have on the programming at the Picturehouse screens.

    But it's a fascinating merger and it really sheds light on how divided we can be as an audience and how we label the films we see. Berbarien Sound Studio at a Vue? I don't think it would feel right! If you watch a film with the wrong audience it can really spoil the show. I know that if I go and catch a film at a multiplex on a sunday afternoon I greatly increase the odd's of a couple of hours sat next to a young adolescent with little of no interest in the film and every interest in using his charms and wit to get the attention of whoever will listen. Nothing gave me greater pleasure as an usher than giving a teenager a warning of ejection if they didn't stop throwing haribo (other hard to digest rubber sweets are available) at the elderly lady in the front row.

  • Comment number 68.

    I think there is very little a vendor of movies can or will learn from a purveyor of films. The products are so dissimilar, this takeover is kind of comparable to Kraft, the cheese making conglomerate, taking over Cadbury, and I'm neither interested in cheese in a chocolate wrapper nor vice versa.

    Eventually, the ambiance of Picturehouse cinemas will be undermined by the sounds of popcorn being crunched and ludicrously voluminous soda cups being slurped from.

    If I could force Cineworld to learn one lesson from Picturehouse, it would be that that films are actually made outside of the US, superior films in fact.

  • Comment number 69.

    I'm a member of Exeter Picturehouse and have been for several years. Although I live about 25 miles from it and there are several nearer, (no Cineworlds), it's my cinema of choice. Reasons: two superb screens, top rate cafe-bar with comfy seats and free wi-fi where it's pleasurable to while away time between screenings or enjoy a pizza or a coffee before the film, friendly, knowledgeable staff with whom I frequently chat, best range of films west of Bristol, emails to the cinema always answered promptly and so on. My somewhat limited experience of Cineworld is confined to the one at Didcot where I occasionally visit a friend who is also a film fanatic and has an Unlimited card. I am constantly recommending films to her which I know she would enjoy but has ABSOLUTELY no chance of seeing as they never come there. They haven't even screened Argo which has showed at Exeter PH for at least 4 weeks. That's one lesson for a start.

    Upshot: I am very afraid of this takeover, it's symptomatic of the March of the Multiplex. I hear what Cineworld is saying but I'm not convinced. My message to Cineworld is: please respect what Picturehouse stands for and use your big multi-screened cinemas to give people a more intelligent choice of films. I have many friends who no longer go to the cinema as they dislike the modern experience with its poorly behaved patrons. This is a chance to try getting them back.

    Mark, you should run this forum again in a couple of years time and we can see if Cineworld have kept their promise. I won't be holding my breath....

  • Comment number 70.

    Well...where to start? First, there is the importnat issue of actually projecting the film properly as has been well covered- a related issue is not leaving the bright lights on during the performance. Generally, not employing people who just don't care...about anything, least of all customer service. What's really annoying me at the moment is the length of the pre-film stuff we have to endure- whilst I don't mind the trailers for other films, the surrounding bumf is extremely tiresome- if you go regularly you have to put up with the same annoying orange 'don't let a mobile phone ruin your film' add and the awful Top Cat advert for the hard of hearing and seeing they're running at the moment- a film that deaf and blind people are lucky not to have to endure with both senses. There is an anti piracy add at the end of all this that shows people half dead, sat in a dilapidated cinema covered in dust which portrays how I am feeling by that point, the voice over guy (I think it's John Hurt) saying, 'an experience all gone'...I think he's on to something. The multiplex ruins the potential experience of cinema and in my weaker moments tempts me (only tempts, mind) to actually download pirated movies as I can project them much better on my HDTV at home without the hour of annoying ads. They could also attempt to do something about it when you do go and make a complaint- quite often I've been in the theatre and the presentation just hasn't started. Last week it was 20 mins late, so I suggested to the member of staff that they just cut straight to the can guess what his response was. I only just made it back to pick the kids up from school - my day off is Mondays and I like to catch an afternoon flick before I pick the kids up. This has happened a few times and I think that the computer that has replaced the projectionist may experience more glitches earlier in the day.

    On a more positive note, I do like the unlimited card and my only hope is that Cineworld Unlimited Card holders can now use our cards at Picturehouse Cinemes so we won't have to darken Cineworld's again!


  • Comment number 71.

    The Ritzy is my local cinema. And it is one of the rare businesses of any type that I feel a genuine affection and loyalty towards: it's not just a nice place to go to watch a film or just have a cup of coffee, it feels like an important part of the local community. It's not only Cineworld that could learn something from them: so could any business that sees the value of customers actually liking them.

    Whereas at most of the big chain cinemas, I enjoy the film *despite* the surroundings: the ambience of an airport departure lounge, the visibly miserable staff, the eye-poppingly overpriced junk food, the soundtrack turned up too loud so that you feel the film is SHOUTING AT YOU all the time.

    So I am frankly very worried about this development. They're saying all the right things at the moment; we have to hope that in five years we don't look back and say that this was the beginning of the end.

  • Comment number 72.

    Enforcement of the Code of Conduct.
    A ban on Michael Bay movies.
    An equal number, quality and timing of screens showing 2D versions of movies.

    I think that'll do.

  • Comment number 73.

    The only Picturehouse cinema I have ever been to is the Ritzy in Brixton which I find rather pleasent. In particular their have fairly innovative screenings, for example tonight (Saturday) they are showing In Bruges immediately after the new film Seven Pyschopaths. My closest independent cinema is the Phoenix in East Finchley, which i believe from something i saw a while back on The Culture Show holds a special place in Mark Kermode's heart. There they have a nice mix of new big films, eg Life of Pi which is going to be shown numerous times over Christmas, alongside old classics and smaller scale movies. If there's one thing that Cineworld can learn from Picturehouse and independent cinemas more widely it's to be adventerous and smart about what films to show and when.

  • Comment number 74.

    Very worrying indeed for anyone who actually cares about cinema. I'm very lucky to live in Bath, Somerset, where the wonderful The Little Theatre cinema is (bought by Picture House a few years ago). I'd hate it to change by even one brick, they've deliberately kept the look just like it was when it opened about a hundred years ago.

    It's a place where people shut up and respect the movie (and patrons) they're there to see, popcorn is allowed but only on certain days of the week and thankfully it has NO 3D equipped screen. May it continue.

    DON'T mess it up Cineworld by starting to force cinemas to only show the 3D version of a film, firing the projections, hiring ushers who don't give a toss if people are ruining a film for others. Watch this space!

  • Comment number 75.

    Cineworld can learn from Picturehouse that pleasing the customer rather than looking at the bottom line is the priority.Dont treat us like Drones.Simple

  • Comment number 76.

    I find it a bit snobbish to assume it is Cineworld who can learn from Picturehouse.

    The wine quaffers that sometimes go to my local Picturehouse in Bath, that sit gassing on balcony sofa seats, are breaking the code of conduct just as much as the coke-slurping multiplexers.

    Similarly a Picturehouse bag of Wasabi Nuts is just as much a rip of as a Cineworld box of nachos.

    Similarly Picturehouse's four-walling of the extremely safe 'Great Expectations' with it's guaranteed middle-aged audience, is the same Cineworld's peddling of 'Rise of the Guardians' - they are just different audiences.

    Both establishments can be improved! However when Cineworld started showing live Opera performances and movies like 'Antichrist' and 'Tree of Life', blockbuster fans didn't get paranoid.

    My local Cineworld also still shows 35mm.

  • Comment number 77.

    What can Cineworld learn? Maybe an understanding of how to encourage customer loyalty? How many of us give a damn about which multiplex cinema we go to? We just choose the one which is most convenient. But as movie fans when we go to an independent cinema we often have our favourites we return to again & again.

    Cineworld must learn that what moviegoers get from independent/arthouse cinemas is the forgotten ideal that movie going should be an experience. From the moment you enter the cinema it must be a place that celebrates the simple pleasure of a night out at the movies rather than the soulless shopping mall environment multiplexes embody. It should be a place that has a sense of occasion in its architecture & décor, a place staffed by people with a genuine interest in film. Cineworld needs to look to Picturehouse in an effort to recapture that once held belief that where we watch films is as much a part of the experience as the film itself.

    I hope this happens, I hope Cineworld honour their takeover statement. Then again look what happened to Cadbury after Kraft took over, despite their promise not to close factories or make compulsory redundancies among UK manufacturing staff for two years.

  • Comment number 78.

    >>>>Matth Stil wrote:
    This gets a blog entry, whereas the similar Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm - 2012's biggest movie news - does not. Oookay.

  • Comment number 79.

    I'll try again.

    >>Matth Stil wrote:
    "This gets a blog entry, whereas the similar Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm - 2012's biggest movie news - does not. Oookay."

    That news is only big to those people under 12 - physically or mentally -who watch that kind of stuff.

    We're talking about cinematic culture here, not hyperkinetic kids films with beeping robots and racial stereotypes disguised as aliens, which only exist to flog toys.

  • Comment number 80.

    #79 - Like the Doc, you're confusing not caring with it not mattering. It IS the biggest movie news of the year, deserving of debate on Kermode Uncut.

    Oh, and any more veiled insults and it's straight to the mods with you... ;)

  • Comment number 81.

    As an expat living in Arizona the one thing I miss is the regular outings to art house cinemas, particularly the Picture House in Exeter.
    We have Cineworld here in Az, its a 10 screen multiplex, and if it is the same chain that is in the UK then all I can say is God help all you Cinema buffs who enjoy great, unusal, independant films.
    And I agree with post 69, The Cineworld here is always weeks behind any of the other multiplex's, actually it makes it sound as if we have loads, but sadly the majority of Az is served by one company called Harkins, who show mostly the "mainstream" stuff aimed mostly at people of a young age who enjoy nothing more than stuffing their faces with popcorn, drinking litre sized containers of pop and ice, and constanly playing with their mobile phones, akin to the Odeon in the UK, also staffed in the main by people who know virtually nothing about films.
    I sincerely hope that the Picture House does not loose its identiy, it is unique, and plays a major role in bringing important and worthy films to an appreciative audience, they are staffed by knowledgable, friendly staff and are great social meeting places.

  • Comment number 82.

    I haven't been in a Cineworld in a few years but that's cause I live in Leeds here there isn't one and i'm literally 5 to 10 minutes away from the Hyde Park Picture House and a Vue. Cineworld from my previous experience has been slightly better than some other cinemas with a slightly more interesting selection, not enough foreign films but that's usual even at arthouse cinemas but this could really help the picturehouse chain to keep afloat.

  • Comment number 83.

    Someone to keep an eye on the bloody screen and the audience members.
    I would like to point out that Birmingham's Cineworld on Broad Street appears to be run by someone who does care. If security spots anyone using a phone they get them to turn it off. When the film starts the light go completely out. They show a decent amount of independent and foreign films. Aspect ratios are sustained and monitored. Thus far, touch wood, I've not had a poor experience.
    Hopefully via the Picturehouse acquisition this mindset will spread to the rest of the chain. Wolverhampton I'm looking at you.

  • Comment number 84.

    one part of me hopes they let us lower class unlimited folk visit picturehouse for free so that we can invade their customers' space and force them share! But then it ceases to be elitist and exclusive.
    Surely cineworld must understand that they must retain picturehouses uniqueness and individuality. They can't surely homogenise it, it wouldn't make sense to buy it in the first place as they run multiplexes and so they would need a cultural change in the boardroom.
    btw, I just saw on picturehouse website, that Ritzy and Clapham have 5 and 4 auditoria - doesn't make them mulitplexes? Isn't that bad? they also charge a booking fee - isn't that bad?

  • Comment number 85.

    I live in the USA, so I have no stake in this. However, looking at this from a business standpoint, I would be inclined to take Cineworld at their word; I would think Cineworld acquired Picturehouse to expand them and cash-in on the market for independent and foreign films. That makes much more sense than Cineworld spending a lot of money to get something they don't have, only to turn it into something they already do have.

  • Comment number 86.

    It would be great to see Cineworld get some Q&A sessions with screenwriters, producers and directors in to their cinemas. They have the prime locations in the heart of the big cities. So why do they not utilise this space more?
    I'd pay good money, for example, if the Cineworld in my city had a Q&A session with someone like Christopher Nolan.

    The main thing that a large chain like Cineworld can learn from the independent cinemas is a sense of creativity. Be inventive. No one will knock you down for showing a little creativity and life. Be bold and the brand will grow. Take for example when it comes to Halloween. Alongside the new horror releases, why not play some of the horror classics we would all love to see on a big screen?

    The smaller cinemas do this well. I have never understood why the big multiplexes, with the vast amount of screens they have, simply can't do it.

  • Comment number 87.


    "Like the Doc, you're confusing not caring with it not mattering. It IS the biggest movie news of the year, deserving of debate on Kermode Uncut."

    Culturally speaking, it's not at all; it's just one big corporation buying another franchise. Star Wars' influence was three decades ago, when it helped infantilise Hollywood and the mainstream audience. The recent prequels were just yet another money-making property, running alongside Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar, Middle earth etc...

    Blockbusters are just about providing more of the same; lazy junk food for an undemanding audience. I've heard several people say they think The Hobbit will be boring and repetitive, but they intend to see it anyway. How's that for low expectation?

    Hollywood mostly gave up on innovation years ago. That has to come from smaller films, whose innovations will be toned down and absorbed by the mainstream. If that didn't happen, Hollywood would stagnate.

    For many people, their local Picturehouse is their only chance to see non-Hollywood films on a big screen. Without them, the cinematic landscape for much of the country would alter. There would be no choice other than multiplex fodder aimed at 12-year-old boys of all ages.

    The future of Picturehouse is certainly worthy of discussion.

    Whether the forthcoming production of Star Wars 7 is also worth mentioning on this forum is up to Dr Kermode himself. I don't have much of an opinion on it myself. I loved the first two films as a kid, but lost interest post-puberty.

  • Comment number 88.

    What can Cineworld learn from Picturehouse?


    There is little more than a cigarette paper between them, is there?

    Cineworld - overpriced popcorn. Picturehouse - overpriced red wine.

    Cineworld - distribution dominated by MPAA member studios. Picturehouse - distribution dominated by Miramax (owned by Disney).

    How 'independent' is Picturehouse given that big American distributors still monopolise exhibition?

    I would be interested to know what Mark thinks about this. Why is the UK film market dominated by a small number of foreign distributors? What impact (if any) does this have on UK cinema exhibition or even the types of films that get made here?

  • Comment number 89.

    #80 - I don't often agree with you Matth, but I think you have a point here (indeed, one you've made multiple times).

  • Comment number 90.

    I wonder whether Cineworld could learn how to make every cinema different? If rolling out 10 new Picturehouses means they all get the same lighting, the same seats, the same fabrics, the same carpets - then what the Picturehouse brand may gain in quantity it will have lost in identity.

  • Comment number 91.

    I maybe alone here but I genuinely think this could be a good thing, I live in Shrewsbury and we have 2 Cinemas in the town. One is a Cineworld chain and the other is an Art House called the Old Market Hall (which I'd loved for you to visit one day). Now, 3 years ago I invested in one of the Cineworld Unlimited Cards which you may or may not be aware allows a holder to go and see as many films as they want for £15 a month which is a service no other franchise offers, so I think Cineworld obviously cares something for Cine-addicts. The problem they have is trying to balance offering a unique service with a profit making business model and who better to learn from than the Art house scene.
    Cineworld has an army of "Unlimited" members who are essentially a captive audience, much in the same way Art House Cinemas have a loyal customer base because you can’t go and see the latest Haneke at any old place.
    Shrewsbury Cineworld has awful scheduling, I usually find myself having to travel 100 miles round to Cineworld Birmingham or visiting the local Art House to see anything that isn’t mainstream, however and I repeat Cineworld obviously cares recently they begun more adventurous scheduling program , just last night I was able to see Rust and Bone which wasn't even on at the local Art House: similarly I have seen the likes of Samsara, Untouchables and Marley this year.
    On the flip side the Old Market Hall (as do other Art House Cinemas) has taken to slipping in blockbusters such as Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises, presumably for no other reason than taking the opportunity to boost takings.
    We need to be careful we are not being smug here I can genuinely say Cineworld is one of the good guys here they have made it possible for me to affordably see 250+ films over the last few years as well as see exclusive preview screenings weeks ahead of official release, sure they have their issues like ushering and buying tickets at the fast food counter, but if they are trying to take steps to improving their service then I for one am looking forward to see more documentaries and Foreign Language titles at Cineworld.

  • Comment number 92.

    #87 - There you go again, Ross, alluding to the maturity of Star Wars fans...

    Look, succinctly-put, the Walt Disney Company seems determined to monopolize the family-film market; Pixar, Marvel, and now Lucasfilm (and don't believe for a second that Lucas wasn't pushed by his fork-tongued detractors) are its subsidiaries to do with however it wants. Aren't monopolies to be frowned upon?

    The House of Mouse is getting waaaay too big for its boots. The recent disclosure that it hid the profits of 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?' from Celador Entertainment, and having heavy metal band Machine Head and its fans effectively outlawed in Florida (seriously - look it up) are serious causes for concern. Or is that just me...?

    #89 - Thank you, Mr. Cooney. You don't concede a point often. Praise indeed.

  • Comment number 93.

    They could learn by stop putting profit before projection!

  • Comment number 94.


    "Aren't monopolies to be frowned upon?"

    Yes, they are, but the American government will do nothing about it.

    At a consumer level, all you can do is boycott their films and other products and encourage others to do likewise.

    If it helps, I'll join you in any boycott of Marvel, Pixar and SW films. ;-)

    Cineworld-Picturehouse is another near-monopoly.

  • Comment number 95.

    Cineworld need take a more professional approach to customer service. The staff at Shaftesbury Avenue are sloppy and have a couldn't give a damn attitude. The Haymarket staff are surly and cocky (quite a combination). If they want to learn how to treat patrons they need to look at the staff on the Screen on the Green, whose staff have a genuine interest in films and are efficient and friendly.

  • Comment number 96.

    #94 - And we come full-circle to my original point, Ross; the Doc releases a blog post pertaining to Cineworld's acquisition of Picturehouse, yet no blog post about the similar - and former - Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm. A double standard.

    Obviously he could care less. Fair enough. That doesn't negate its status as the biggest movie news of the year, however; we all wake up one morning and, oh, by the way, Disney now owns Lucasfilm - 'Huh?! Since when? What's going on?'

    No blog post. That's incredible of Britain's foremost movie-buff. You cannot deny that.

  • Comment number 97.

    @Matth Stil, this is all a bit off topic but like it or not this is Dr K's film blog. Blog's are often more personal in nature than online journalism, as such Dr K obviously focuses on film related issues which are of particular personal interest to him. He isn't really interested much in Star Wars so why would he blog about it? There are numerous places online to find out about & discuss the Disney ownership of Lucasfilm. I know because I have read them as I am interested in this news, but don't expect to find a discussion about it here on Dr K's blog.

  • Comment number 98.

    #97 - Do you concede it's the biggest movie news of 2012?

  • Comment number 99.

    Personally, Cineworld should really appreciate ticket sales, not assume ticket sales.

  • Comment number 100.

    Corporate blandness will crush Picture House's creativity and sense of fun, whatever anyone says. Will they still have the courage to do a Mother and Baby screening of... We Need to Talk About Kevin?

    Yep. They really did :-)


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