This lockdown has been a bit of a blessing for me personally.
I honestly don’t want that to sound like I’m belittling the trouble that others are having, or the people who have suffered or died as a result of Covid19. This is purely a speculation on how this period of quarantine has affected me directly.
Not having to drive the 80-mile round trip to work everyday has been wonderful. Having more time at home to devote to my wife and my pets is great. I don’t feel as tired day to day. I’m not as stressed and I’m not wracked with anxiety. My car has less miles on the clock, I’m saving money on petrol, eating better, and exercising more…it’s kind of become my idea of a perfect lifestyle.
I’ve always been somewhat of a homebody anyway, so being confined to the house hasn’t been a huge adjustment. Projects around the house, online gaming, and a Skype quiz here and there with friends has filled the hours nicely.
The only way life has really changed for me is that I sometimes have to queue at the supermarket.
Oh, and I can’t go to the cinema.
Now…that one really hurts.
Those that know me, know I’m a HUGE movie buff.
I have a collection of DVD/BluRay discs numbering in excess of 1,000 films and TV (and you don’t want to know how many films we’ve culled out of the collection over the years, simply to save space in our old smaller house!), subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+. Our joint bank account has perks as an option and we chose the free cinema tickets. Back in the early 2000s, the cinema near us was a UGC and they did an unlimited cinema pass for £9.99 per month. Of course I had that! I watched pretty much every film that came out at the theatre in those years.
I will consume films in any way, shape or form I can…but the cinema is THE best way to watch a movie.
There’s a cinema in Birmingham (in the UK, in case you wondered!) called ‘The Everyman’. It’s tucked away in the corner of an upmarket shopping mall called ‘The Mailbox’.
It’s not a cheap cinema experience, but it is my favourite. The auditorium is filled with sofas, and food and drink is delivered to your seat. You can relax in comfort and put your feet up. Because of that, the seating is limited in number and, because of the expense, you don’t get the problem of inconsiderate audience members.
(Quick aside: I’m planning a ‘Pet Peeves’ blog post *coming soon*. I’ll be ranting, in my own comedic fashion, about people who pay to go to the cinema/theatre and then sit there chatting and texting, etc. Argh, even now I can feel my ire rising…stay calm, Jon…keep it under wraps for now!)
An evening out to see a film there is reserved for the special movies. The event movies.
A year ago, for example, we went to see…
I’m a fan of the MCU. Big fan. I’ve been reading comics since I was a small child, so of course this plays directly into my wheelhouse. You may have seen a video clip doing the rounds this week of the audience reaction to one of the key moments of the film…*SPOILER WARNING – but frankly this is a film that is over a year old and was seen by pretty much everyone in the known universe!*… Cap using Mjolnir.
The crowd goes nuts! There are similar reactions to other dramatic moments in the film. Now, admittedly this is an American crowd, here in the UK we tend to be more…restrained in our cinema practices. We continue to munch our popcorn while giving a quiet fist pump and a muttered ‘Jolly good show, chaps!’
Regardless of our national viewing practices, unless you’re dead inside, you’d have to admit…that film is full of spine-tingling ‘Fuck, yes!’ moments.
How can that NOT put the biggest of smiles on your face? 😀
Moments like these don’t play out the same on home cinema, when you’re sat alone in your underwear on the sofa eating popcorn out of a bag and diverting your attention to the other, tinier screen in your hand when you get some form of notification.
The cinema experience is lost at this point.
Going out to watch a movie is something I love in all its ritualistic glory.
Wife and I hop into the car for the trip. We talk about how excited we are, what happened in previous movies (if applicable), play apt music on the car stereo. Often, we run late – usually my fault – so end up worrying about if we’ll even get in! That’s okay – it’s all part of the experience.
Upon arrival we check in at the usher and head to the bar to order our food and drink. Then we debate whether we should buy the overpriced tiny tubs of chocolate buttons or popcorn, sometimes deciding to splurge, other times to save money on the frankly absurd excuse that we’re on a diet.
We sit and talk for a while in the lounge area, before heading down a few minutes before the start of the movie. We climb the stairs looking for our strategically-placed seats that are dead centre (or as close as we can get to dead centre) of the auditorium. (We booked in advance to ensure we got what we wanted!)
We settle into our chosen sofa, plumping the cushions and getting comfortable. We make sure our phones are either off or on silent. We’re respectful that way. The trailers start and we either coo with glee at an upcoming film, or frown and express a distinct lack of interest. Food arrives and we munch it with abandon, finishing neatly just before the lights come up and the usher enters to introduce today’s feature presentation.
And then we’re into the film itself and lost in a fictional world for a couple of hours.
For those hours, the outside world doesn’t exist. Our vision is filled with amazing, spectacular visions that often we’ll never see in real life but because of the frankly incredibly advances in CGI, we buy into and believe…just for a couple of hours.
(Side note: Is it just me that has these thoughts… What would happen if you could travel back 60 years in time and show them a movie from today? Something like Arrival, or Godzilla, or even any of the Marvel movies. Would that person, not knowing what CGI is, think that what you’re showing them was REAL? Would they panic and think aliens have arrived? Or that a giant monster REALLY is stomping around the world? Or that super soldiers truly exist? I think about this stuff maybe more than I truly should…)
Through sights and sounds we are immersed in an imaginary world, and we lose ourselves willingly in it. You hear the audience gasp at all the moments you realise you, yourself, are gasping at. You’re scared by them, excited by them. You share a group experience of terror, joy and fulfillment.
Okay, I realise I’m making this sound like an orgy… Please, take your mind out of the gutter and remember I’m talking cinema, okay?
When the movie’s over, you walk out into the fresh air of night (or day if it was a matinee) and you go through the whole debrief exercise. Did you both like it? What was your favourite bit? Would you see it again? Can you wait for the sequel? How much coconut oil did The Rock use anyway?
You haven’t just seen a movie.
You’ve spent three hours having an experience.
Now, the reason I’m talking about this is because of the news this week of a huge fight brewing between Universal Studios and the cinema industry as a whole.
Due to Covid19, Universal released ‘Trolls World Tour’ to a service they called PVOD – Premier Video on Demand.
Essentially, it’s a rental service for newly released films. You pay $19.99 and get access to the film for 48 hours.
In this case, it was necessary. The film was about to hit theatres when the virus took the normal release process out of play. Where other studios could postpone films till later in the year, some movies were committed to their slots. While this was concerning to the cinema industry, they accepted it as a one-off and shut their doors to the public temporarily.
Time passed… The Earth turned…
Then, this past week, Universal Studios announced that the release had been moderately successful. I don’t have the numbers in front of me (I know I should research this shit before I write about it, but I’m lazy…so sue me!), but the original Trolls movie took in something like $120M dollars on its first 19 days of release. Trolls World Tour took something like $100M on the PVOD service over a similar period. To Universal, these numbers are close enough to justify a statement saying that they would consider releasing their movies to PVOD at the same time they release to theatres.
Witness the atomic explosion from the cinema industry.
With the current lockdown, cinema is an industry in crisis from top to bottom.
Movies that were in production are being held. Movies that weren’t in production are being pushed back or cancelled. Cinema chains and their employees rely on movies coming through to keep their doors open. Currently, there is nothing but the hope that they can ride out this storm and when the world reopens there will be a huge appetite for getting out of the house to see all those movies they missed.
And now here’s Universal with their PVOD experiment.
The danger here is VERY real to the cinema industry.
It was already having to justify its place in a modern life where the current generation streams EVERYTHING. Movies on demand is probably the way of the future. It’s a tide of inevitability that cannot be resisted. The cinema experience will become niche, more like the Everyman experience I’ve talked about above. It’ll be an expensive treat for only the best movies, and will likely incorporate things like the 4DX experience where they give you a sensory experience to go alongside the visual.
The current generation is used to watching movies on UHD TVs with surround sound. Or watching them on the go on their phones and tablets. The way media is consumed is changing quickly and, like it or not, the days of regular cinema are probably numbered.
Which makes me very sad.
Which makes me sad.
We’re not there quite yet, though, and for the cinema industry, the gloves are now off.
AMC Cinemas came out and told Universal, in no uncertain terms, that if the movie studio went through with this PVOD plan, then their movies would no longer be welcome in AMC theatres. Basically, a huge Fuck You!
Here in the UK, a number of theatre chains followed suite. Odeon, Regal and Cineworld all confirmed that they would follow AMC and not show Universal movies.
Now, this isn’t a little studio we’re talking about here.
This is the studio that will be bringing you the Jurassic Park/World franchise and also The Fast and Furious movies. These are big hitters. BILLION dollar movies. Do we really think that these movies are NOT going to get a worldwide theatrical release in ALL of the available cinema chains?
No. We don’t.
This is likely all a bit of a storm in a tea-cup.
But, and this is the reason I brought this up, it is indicative of where the future is heading. At some point soon, the simultaneous release of movies to both formats WILL be the norm. Consumers will demand it.
And regardless of what I said above, I’m one of those consumers.
Look, I LOVE movies. I LOVE the cinema experience.
But it’s expensive.
If Wifey and I go to the Everyman, we’re talking approximately:
- Parking – £5
- Dinner – £25
- Drinks – £10
- Tickets – £30
- Snacks – £10
For a grand Everyman total of – £80
I wish we were made of money, but we’re not. That’s a once a month treat at best.
Even if we go to our local cinema, which is considerably cheaper, we’re talking:
- Parking – free
- Dinner – Not usually on the cards, but sometimes we go to a restaurant afterwards (especially after the John Favreau movie ‘Chef’ – curse you Favreau!)
- Drinks – £5
- Tickets – £15
- Snacks – £10
For a grand Empire Cinema total of – £30
For all that, we get to see the movie just once.
PVOD is offering the chance to see a new release on our big HD TV, as many times as we like, in the comfort of our own home for the low price of £20 or so. (Plus, if we want to go crazy, we can also get takeout food of our choice for considerably cheaper than it would be to dine out!)
Yes, I would miss the experience of the cinema, but I can now watch the film repeatedly, pause it, rewind it, and watch it with friends (and perhaps split the cost – think about it…I could have a bunch of mates over for a Fast and Furious evening and we all chip in to the rental cost!).
In some ways, it IS a no-brainer.
It’s just one that makes me very sad.
Saturday night at the movies?
Maybe once a month. The rest of the month I’ll be on my couch, munching popcorn in my lounge pants.
Love and Movies