Sunday, 11 September 2016
The Cambridge Arts Cinema is trying to become ITV
I don't often go to the Cambridge Arts Cinema because you have to buy a seat in advance if you want a good seat, you can't just turn up and get a good seat, your seats are allocated to you as if you are naughty children. And if you try to book on-line you are charged an additional fee for the privilege of buying a ticket. In fact, I stopped using their on-line booking service shortly after they tried to stop being a cinema and become a Junk Food Emporium instead. At that point, they were also trying to become Ryanair. When you went on-line to book a ticket to see a film, you were repeatedly bombarded during the booking process (which you were paying a premium to use) with junk food add-ons. "Okay, so you've chosen a ticket and you've agreed to sit only in this seat, now that will be £11.50 for the seat, plus a quid of whatever it is because you are booking online, plus £39.99 for two cokes, a packet of sugary sweets and two large tubs of popcorn." You'd tell the system that you only wanted a ticket to see the film, and they would respond with something like, "Okay, so you only want the ticket and two large cokes". You would say you don't want the cokes, and then they would offer alcoholic drinks with 'special discounted offers'. So I stopped trying to book tickets on line.
I live a couple of miles from the cinema, so I would drop by now and then to see if there was anything showing that I'd like. There are three screens, but the one genuinely good screen seems to be reserved only for showing Marvel Comics films, or James Bond films, or computer-generated cartoons from Disney.
The real film revivals were always confined to Screen 3 - the add-on screen which they built instead of a disabled lavatory. The screen isn't much bigger than the one I have at home, and the sound system isn't good.
So I don't often go to the Arts Cinema to see films. In fact, I saw more films in Germany last year than I saw in Cambridge, and I love cinema and I live in Cambridge. I used to go the cinema two or three times a week.
A couple of weeks ago, I dropped by the Arts and saw that they had a poster up for the film about Gary Numan - called Android in La La Land (not a good title and it wasn't a good poster). Because it was an interesting subject I knew it would be playing in the crap screen, and that proved to be the case. It was a one-off screening in the afternoon, but you could turn up and take any seat you wanted! and the director was doing a Question and Answer session afterwards. I wanted to hear what he said, and I wanted to see the film, so I paid the £11.50 for a ticket.
I arrived a few minutes before the film was scheduled to start. The attendance was good, about a 100 people more than who had paid to see the film that was playing in Screen One (note to the manager, why don't you have special events in Screen One?). The lights dimmed and we were treated with noisy adverts for 20 minutes or so. Now, if you want to take up 20 minutes of my time by showing me adverts, don't charge me £11.50 for a ticket to see a film. In fact, don't charge me at all to see a film. At that point, I decided not to pay £23 to the Arts Cinema to see forty minutes of adverts and the new Woody Allen and Pedro Almodovar films that were playing in the cinema that week.
Then, and this is the killer - It's a film about a musician. It starts with the musician's music. The music is very good and very original and, of course, the filmmakers want to make an impact, so they have the music burst forth with all its glory at the start of the film.
But the cinema played the film at a lower volume than they played the adverts!!!
At that moment I knew that The Cambridge Arts Cinema has become ITV. The chav channel of choice.
Instead of drawing lessons from low-quality organisations such as Ryanair and ITV they should concentrate on being a place that takes pride in film and cinema.