Home The Author The Book Reviews FAQs More Stuff The Other Side


RSS Feed 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Cinema and its discontents, part 3

Here's another financial problem for cinemas that rebounds on audiences: the intersection between concession stands and film length. It's generally remarked that cinemas depend on concession stands now to keep their profits healthy; even the great old Cambridge Arts Cinema, to my sorrow, closed down its original premises several years ago (which is now part of an enormous Borders), and moved down the street. The new place is fine, but it's notable that it has a cafe attached. A nice cafe, selling gastropub-style sandwiches and nibbles and alcoholic drinks, a pleasant place to eat before the film - but still, financially, more or less an upmarket concession stand. If customers aren't coming in big droves, you need them to spend as much as possible while they're actually there, and charging a high mark-up on inexpensive food is one way of doing it.

Now, this would be fair enough, if a bit gouging, if that was all there was to it. But there's a problem with that: films are getting longer - and unlike older long films, have done away with the intermission. Alfred Hitchcock famously remarked that 'The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder,' and mundane though it sounds, it's an excellent point. However good the film, it's very hard to concentrate if you're in pain. 'How long can I go without wetting my pants?' might not be the deepest question in the world, but when it applies to you personally, it will probably seem more compelling that whatever artistic or philosophical dilemma the characters are wrestling with up on the screen.

In Boogie Nights, porn auteur Jack dreams of making a skin flick so exciting that it'll keep customers in their seats post-orgasm: '...When they spurt out that joy juice, they just got to sit in it until they find out how it ends.' If that sounds ambitious, try stacking up the 5-odd millitres of an ejaculation against the 400-600 ml capacity of a human bladder: now there's a problem that can't be addressed with a discreet tissue and some baby wipes.

Worse than that, by straining the audience's loyalties between the story and their comfort, you actually create a needless acid test: I can think of at least one film where the best way to express my distate for it was to remark that I hadn't minded taking a bathroom break in the middle. An audience member debating whether or not to nip to the loos and miss some of the story, in fact, is asking themselves at what point they're prepared to say, 'Oh, stuff this film,' - and that's not a question you should encourage audiences to consider any more than you absolutely have to.

Which is where the concession stand will take a hit. If the film lasts an hour and twenty minutes, a drink might seem like a pleasant accompaniment; if it lasts three hours and ten minutes, do you really want a pint of liquid running through your kidneys? Pretty much every time I go into a cinema, I go through the same thought process: It might be nice to take in some popcorn, but if I do that I'll get thirsty, and then I'll want a drink ... nah, I'd rather be able to concentrate on the ending, thanks.

Teenage boys are the main target of blockbuster movies for a lot of reasons, but I can't help wondering if one of them is simply that they're equipped with a functioning prostate and no uterus to, as it were, press for their attention a couple of hours into the film. And if that's the case, given the limited number of major features for anybody other than teenage boys, I intend to nail 95 theses to the bathroom door.

Clearly, modern cinema needs to reinstate INTERMISSION.

"Let's all go to the LOB-BY! To get ourselves a SNACK!"
Post a Comment

<< Home


July 2006   August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007   March 2007   April 2007   May 2007   June 2007   July 2007   August 2007   September 2007   October 2007   November 2007   December 2007   January 2008   February 2008   March 2008   April 2008   May 2008   June 2008   July 2008   August 2008   September 2008   October 2008   November 2008   December 2008   January 2009   February 2009   March 2009   April 2009   May 2009   June 2009   July 2009   August 2009   September 2009   October 2009   November 2009   December 2009   January 2010   February 2010   March 2010   April 2010   June 2010   July 2010   August 2010   September 2010   October 2010   November 2010   December 2010   January 2011   February 2011   March 2011   April 2011   May 2011   June 2011   July 2011   August 2011   September 2011   October 2011   November 2011   December 2011   January 2012   February 2012   March 2012   April 2012   May 2012   June 2012   July 2012   August 2012   September 2012   October 2012   November 2012   December 2012   January 2013   February 2013   March 2013   April 2013   May 2013   June 2013   July 2013   August 2013   September 2013   October 2013   March 2014  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?