Curious how the film industry has got into the healthy habit of providing us with brand new films on DVD at a fiver a throw in our local supermarkets but how - at the same time - it's suddenly both jacking up the price of the big-screen experience and degrading its essence.
My wife, daughter and I went to a nearby cinema last night to watch Disney's "A Christmas Carol" in 3D. The film is brilliant - one of those long-burners which builds tension through a traditional Hollywood wait-and-see approach to screencraft. Definitely not Indiana Jones - and quite the better for it.
The evening was, however, marred by a couple of details which other cinema-goers might not have cared about but did affect my enjoyment. We ended up paying around £27 for the experience, about 50 percent more than I expected to pay - given that at our normal cinema you can get a family ticket for four for around £20. Discounting the premium you might expect for a 3D film, the difference still made my wallet creak. On top of which was the cost of my daughter's M&Ms, which ran to the price of a recently released DVD. Bring your own? This cinema (though not on this occasion) habitually demands that my wife open the contents of her handbag. The last time this happened, we felt assaulted - abused almost. It doesn't, however, encourage you to bring your own. Probably the real reason why they do it - though they will say it's to stop people bringing in cameras and pirating the films.
And this was something else that contrasted sharply with my childhood experiences of cinema-going. There was an innocence about the adventure which no longer exists. Now, CCTV and night vision sensors are trained on the audiences as anti-piracy measures and the organisation FACT reserve the right to treat everyone as a potential criminal.
This is not right.
Some cinemas are worse than others. Our local cinema, CineWorld, is far more respectful of its customers than the subject of this post.
We normally go there. Last night, they weren't doing 3D. Next time, and for the reasons I will now explain, we'll pass.
So, OK. Disney is not responsible for how a cinema conducts itself. But after paying a tenner per person, you would expect a seamless and inclusive experience of cinema. Instead, what we got was a degrading differentiation. Apparently, the latest wizard wheeze to get money out of people in a collapsing market is to have what they call VIP seats: the best seats in the house are now made out of a kind of plastic leather and are reserved for those who care to pay even more for the luxury of sitting through thirty minutes of adverts and trailers. Yes. I timed it. Not only are there now two classes of cinema-goers - standard and VIP - but also both have to put up with half an hour of what at best is barely informative and at worst is downright inappropriate. Considering we were waiting to see Disney's "A Christmas Carol", the trailer for "Avatar" was absolutely disgraceful and totally out of keeping with the target audience.
Conclusion? As I said at the beginning, can't fault Disney's film-making genius. Can, however, fault their ability to forge appropriate partnerships with decent cinema chains. Think again, please. By turning what should be a marvellous night out into just another rip-off Saturday, you're turning us away from the greatest collaborative art form of the 20th century - and ensuring it'll remain just that: of the 20th century ...
plenty of pics, lots of pax - and the occasional (vox) pox on all our houses