It is easy to say the pandemic should flatten the traditional cinema model. But maybe when the curtain is raised on compromised living, it is exactly what we need.
COVID was an odd time. And please, expect further ‘dumbest statements ever’ to proceed in the following piece.
Specifically, it saw a huge amount of people across the world, forced to lock up/down, with nothing more than screens everywhere and close family members, and bedroom offices, and animals, all combined with a level of financial uncertainty never seen before in our lives.
However, this is also at a time of true digital disruption. When the interwebnets came along, everything changed. And then nothing really changed, until it changed again. The sudden impact was that we had access to everything. All the time. Forever.
Willy Wonka’s genius flying vision never really got off the ground, but modern delivery services merge the digital world with the real one and have made any physical thing on the planet available in an instant. Uber Eats, Deliveroo, DoorDash, and so on, cater to our every impulsive dietary whim. I had a friend order the cheapest possible USB cables on the planet from Amazon at 11am on a Saturday and by 10pm Sunday, they were delivered to his house in rural-ish QLD. How is that possible? He’s not even Prime (though he is rad. And yes, he made me add this bit).
It could be easy to compare traditional Cinemas to the taxi industry demolition, man – poor service, overpriced everything, customer neglect – totally ready to be ‘Ubered’. Netflix, Prime, Hulu et al have already provided the alternative. So what could possibly keep them humming?
The context. The context is completely different. When we are locked in our homes, we need options. We are not choosing an alternative habit; we are responding to the now. Whether we seek entertainment, distractions, or both, the choice is not necessarily a replacement for other leisure activities, but the only viable solution if you cannot go outside.
You ever flick through Netflix for 45-minutes and end up with a repeat episode of Parks and Recreations (not a bad thing by the way – I’d totally recommend doing this)? Ever spend ten minutes staring at a fridge that is so full of ingredients that it would make Heston Blumenthal jealous, but end up pulling together a toasted sandwich of old cheese and Chicken Crimpy’s? And the bread is well beyond life.
“Cinema” is not this. When was the last time you had the true modern cinema experience? And I am not necessarily referring to big brand cinemas (yeah, this is my not too subtle way of saying **Event**). I am talking about the others, the nice ones, where you get a presentation of cheeses, worldly wines, comfortable seating, and first-class service from individuals who are genuinely enthusiastic about the experience they are delivering and the industry they are in.
Imagine taking your closest and fairest, sitting close to them (but not too close mind you; we are here for a movie, not to make babies), and experiencing true cinematic art (or pure Jason ‘I need karate something STAT’ Statham type fun). Escape your daily environment with smile-worthy experiences, and then sharing that experience in complete silence while you focus on a single subject matter for a couple of hours.
“Cinema” delivers art, fun, enjoyment, and a time-out in an incredibly accessible form. You select a movie. A session. Your seat. And your snacks. Sure it’s overpriced, but tell me about your $1800 smart phone that you upgrade every year – do you really need a 68 megapixels camera and seven servers of storage? The cinema is not overpriced and you do not have to buy snacks and drinks if it is going to upset you enough that you feel compelled to write a blog about it.
Cinema does not need an overhaul, it needs to be understood for what it is; an opportunity to get out, be entertained, spend time with people, and do so without the responsibility of adjusting volume, pausing, rewinding, and cleaning up afterwards. You arrive, you smile, you sit, you cycle through various emotional responses to an artistic work, and you leave. Which is possibly an exercise in simplicity that most of us sorely miss.