Save our independents: Why it’s time to give up on Multiplexes

I’d like, if I may, to compare a few of my recent cinema excursions. About a month ago, I took my mum to see Bridesmaids at Brighton Marina’s Cineworld on a school night. I cheerfully scampered up to the ticket office, all my shiny 50p’s in hand, and asked for two grown-up tickets in my big grown up voice. ‘Why certainly!’ the smiley, rosy cheeked ticket-vendor declared, ‘That’ll be sixteen pounds.’ And the bottom fell out of my world.

SIXTEEN POUNDS. That’s more than pretty much any single disc DVD, on release day. THAT’S 32 FIFTY PEES. I’ve only been allowed to go to the cinema on my own for about ten years, and I remember getting all upset by the prospect of one day having to pay for the EXTORTIONATE five pound adult tickets.

It gets worse. After begrudgingly handing over the annual GDP of the Western World in exchange for two pieces of card that are almost immediately TORN IN HALF IN FRONT OF MY EYES, I escorted M’ma into the busy screen full of ladies and frightened men. The film started about ten minutes late, but nae bother. What was bother – very, very bother – was that I could barely hear Kristen Wiig telling her funny Woman Jokes. Not only was the sound far too quiet, but also muffled, as if someone was smothering the speakers with a giant pillow. Having already seen Bridesmaids the previous week I simply gave up, and thought about horses instead.

After I got home, and my equine synapses had been thoroughly exhausted, I got to wondering about cinemas. If a ticket costs that much, and the experience is that.. well, budget, why should I bother? A DVD is twice as crisp, twice as bright (and brighter still; there are buttons you can press to make that happen) and AUDIBLE. And I can eat fajitas in front of it without fear of ridicule, AND pause it when I have to go for a wee. To put it succinctly: if going to the cinema is more expensive than buying a DVD and offers a significantly poorer experience, why would I ever bother going again?

And then something changed. I went to see Kill List – which I’d heard lots of excellent things about and appeared to be entirely mah shit, which it was – and the quality of the screening was utterly glorious. The sound was crystal clear, and exactly as loud as it needed to be, the picture was bright (at least as bright as any screen showing Kill List can be) and razor sharp. I left the cinema feeling rejuvenated. YES, I DO love films, I love them super much. I love how scary a proper horror soundtrack is when it’s really effing loud. I love noticing the nuances of Michael Smiley’s facial expressions. I love picking up on the subtle details of deliveries – hesitation, aggression, fear, horses – and my thanks rested totally with my now-confirmed favourite place: Brighton’s independent cinema The Duke of York.

Independent cinemas are wonderful, The Duke Of York doubly so, and even though I’ve said all this before, it remains bloomin well true. What I want you all to do is to find your local equivalent; be it Norwich’s utterly sublime Cinema City, Leeds’ legendary Hyde Park Picture House or Mark Kermode’s personal favourite, The Phoenix in East Finchley. Once you’ve done that, I want you to only go there, from now on. You may, of course, patronise any or all other indy cinemas, but you must never go to a multiplex again. At least, not until they start to play ball.

I’m sure you have objections, but allow me to combat them. It’s true, independent cinemas have always been more expensive; they have to be to survive. But, while multiplex prices have risen at an obscene rate – practically a pound per year – the prices at most indies haven’t. The result? A peak ticket at the Duke of York now costs exactly the same as a peak ticket at Cineworld, for an experience that you really can’t replicate on DVD.

But, you cry, what if the film I want to see isn’t on at one of these things? Well, that’s because the film you want to see is probably shit. Why waste your money on a film that doesn’t deserve it? Why go and see a blockbuster just because you’ve heard of it? If you’re going to the cinema anyway, why not take a risk, do a little homework, and see something that isn’t showing everywhere? It’s true; most indies only show a handful of films every day. But these flicks have been carefully selected for their quality, not for their potential profit margin. The only other film on the Duke of York’s regular schedule for that week other than Kill List was Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In. So, later that week, I went to see that too, and it was great too. That’s a 100% not-shit success rate.

And there’s more! Some of my fondest memories of student life involved a few pints in the bar at Cinema City, a midnight screening of the director’s cut of The Exorcist (part of their excellent, ongoing Friday Frighteners season) during which we may have regularly snuck out to buy more beer, followed by a bottle of wine at home and a discussion that began with the film but inevitably ended with horses. Then there was the screening of Carrie with the X rating and frequent huge scratches, which proved once and for all that the bit where OHMYGOD SHE’SBEHINDTHEDOOR is the scariest moment in cinema history. And Braindead, during which we all laughed so hard that I think I actually started weeping.

I’m not trying to take down the multiplexes. I’m not arrogant enough to assume that I could. I just think it would be really great if a few of us could make a point of only going to the cinemas that care about you, about your experience, and about quality cinema. I’m in; how about you?

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