Column: January 26, 2012

I FOUND myself walking past an Odeon cinema, and wondered idly what was on. I looked at the row of signs outside the cinema, all designed to hold publicity posters, and I found it very informative.

For example, I came away with the understanding that I can use Odeon Points to buy popcorn, and that, were I to switch my phone provider, I would be able to visit the cinema more cheaply on a Wednesday, presuming I was able to get anybody to go to the pictures on a Wednesday.

I was also clear that the establishment was backing British cinema – presumably by showing The Inbetweeners Movie rather than the latest Ken Loach about a Bolton pensioner who lives in a skip.

What I did not know was which films were being shown. Yes, if I had walked up to the small panel with the films on it, I would, eventually, have obtained the information I sought. But I couldn’t be faffed. I am one of those very busy, time-poor people they have these days.

Presumably, a policy decision has been taken to publicise the splendid deals the cinema chain has on snacks – “Buy a large popcorn and we will give you half the deposit on the mortgage you will need to buy a large popcorn” – instead of the films being shown.

To a certain degree, this is understandable. After all, cinema chains make most of their profits by selling snacks.

But nobody has ever said: “You know, Ethan? I am gagging for a hundredweight of popcorn and a Coke cup the size of my head. If only there were somewhere I could obtain such luxuries.”

And nobody has ever replied: “It’s funny you should mention that, Demi-Jade. I saw an advertisement for such luxuries outside that special cafe where it’s dark and all the seats face in the same direction and they have a telly so massive it has to have curtains.”

And nobody has ever replied: “Let’s go, Ethan! After all, it is Wednesday.”

Yet the only film this cinema was publicising to any extent with a poster was The Iron Lady. In Liverpool.

That is like trying to sell “Fergie: My Story” starring, as Sir Alex Ferguson, Kelvin Mackenzie in Liverpool. Or Green Lantern anywhere.

I wonder how cinemas decided upon this insane path. And here I am, wondering . . .

THE SMASHING CINEMA CO. BOARDROOM.

MD: Figgis, I know how we are going to save the cinema industry!

FIGGIS: Sigh.

MD: Thirty-one years ago, I watched the film Raiders Of The Lost Ark and was rapt as Indiana Jones braved traps to reach the treasure. And as I saw him being chased by a massive boulder, I knew . . . this was the future of cinema.

FIGGIS: Big budget blockbusters?

MD: No, danger! We make it as difficult as possible for people to see our films. Then they understand how precious they are. And you can charge a lot more for precious things. And if that means death traps, then so be it!

FIGGIS: There would be health & safety concerns . . .

MD: Oh, typical! Blasted red tape binding the hands of wealth creators.

FIGGIS: We could just make it slightly more difficult for people to find out what’s on, by not publicising the films outside the cinema.

MD: Yes! That’ll do it.

I mention this as part of a rare sortie into the realm of news, rather than intense personal embarrassment.

You may be aware that this very cinema’s staff told of the angry Scousers who demanded their money back after going to see The Artist because it was silent, and black and white. I am as baffled by their displeasure as you. After all, every time one turns on ITV2 it is showing Battleship Potemkin or another flipping Chaplin movie.

That apart, had the poor saps, who probably haven’t subscribed to Sight & Sound for years, seen an actual poster for the film, they would have been in no doubt about its nature, seen something with Adam Sandler in it, and everybody would have been happy, if a little diminished.

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