Attack of the time thieves

(The continuing saga of “little things that shouldn’t annoy me, but do”)

I went to the cinema the other night (Stranger Than Fiction, since you ask. Yes, it was great. That Will Ferrell can really act! Who’d have thought it?) and, like the good little consumer I am, turned up just in time for the 9pm showing. After being gouged by the ticket price and gouged again at the sweet counter, I wandered in to see the film. I spent the next 30 minutes watching adverts, many of which were for the cinema chain itself. The time thieves strike again.

It wouldn’t be so bad if films weren’t too bloody long and cinema seats weren’t too bloody uncomfortable already, but they are. Is 30 minutes of advertising normal? And if it is, why don’t the cinema chains get someone to kick you in the arse and give you a Chinese Burn every ten minutes just to reinforce the message that they really bloody hate you?

The time thieves are everywhere. They tell you that at gigs, the doors open at 4.30pm (but they don’t tell you that there won’t be a single note before seven). They disable the menu and fast forward buttons on your – purchased! – DVDs to force you to watch ads for films you’ll never see, or to tell you not to pirate DVDs – something that baffles me, because it makes the experience of watching legally bought movies so much more unpleasant than downloading them from bittorrent. And worst of all, they expect you to watch 30 minutes of adverts in a dark room as you lose all feeling in your buttocks.

I sometimes wonder if we’re all taking part in a giant sociological experiment where we, the innocent guinea pigs, are studied to see just how badly we can be treated while still happily paying for the privilege.

10 thoughts on “Attack of the time thieves

  1. mupwangle says:

    Today’s word is spleen. Kind of appropriate.

    I went to see Casino Royale the other day and in the first fecking advert was for Omega (major product placement in film) that showed all the major stunts from the film in a montage. I was really pissed off.

  2. rutty says:

    I came out of Casino Royale on Saturday night wanting to buy something made by Sony – either a mobile phone or a laptop, I wasn’t bothered. That and a heated cushion for my poor, numb arse.

    Great film though, apart from the love interest bit which was utter shite.

    I too begrudge having to watch adverts on paid-for DVDs. It’s like they’re trying to create a market from illegal ad-free rips – over-charge for a film then fill it full of adverts. Thanks!

  3. mupwangle says:

    I thought that it was really good. If it wasn’t for the really bad product placement (especially Sony!) you probably wouldn’t think it was a bond film.

  4. Squander Two says:

    I quite like ads in cinemas. Ads are great when they’re done well, and they tend to only show the good ones in cinemas. It was great to see, for instance, the horses-in-the-waves Guinness ad on a big screen.

    And hey, if we get rid of them, we could pay fifty quid a ticket.

  5. Gary says:

    And hey, if we get rid of them, we could pay fifty quid a ticket.

    Nah, ad revenues are relatively small. If they were banned from selling food and sweets, though… cinema chains are in the food business, not the ad business (and definitely not the movie business).

    The economics of the movie business are ridiculous: of your ticket price around 75% goes to the studio and a further 15% to the distributor (those figures are higher in many, many cases – I’ve heard talk that some recent big-name films were 99% jobs, and 100% isn’t unusual for opening weeks) and cinemas don’t really make an income from ticket sales unless a film stays on screen for several weeks and attracts decent audience numbers throughout. That’s rarely the case now, because the model is big openings and a quick tail-off; it certainly isn’t helped by movie bloat, because longer films mean fewer screenings. King Kong must have been a disaster for cinema chains.

    Apparently Star Wars Episode 1 was a 75/25 job, but there were presentation requirements to boot: a certain standard of audio equipment, a specified number of weeks that the film must be shown, each screen to have its own reels, etc.

    To an extent, the silly cost of cinema food and the ever-expanding ads is entirely the studios’ fault: their entire model effectively gets the cinemas to shoulder most of the risk.

  6. Squander Two says:

    Why the hell they haven’t figured out that they can do simultaneous worldwide release by download yet, I have no idea. There’s a fortune waiting to be made there.

  7. Gary says:

    Indeed. Apparently the cost of making enough prints for 3,000 cinemas is $6 million. Digital distro would chop that to around $40,000 – although of course the cinemas would need new kit.

  8. Squander Two says:

    No, I meant to people’s PCs, not just cinemas. It’s that age-old story: an industry’s business plan is based on the technology in existence when that industry started, and they haven’t yet twigged to the fact that the world has moved on in their favour. Why release in cinemas prior to DVD? There is only one reason: tradition.

  9. Gary says:

    Ah, sorry, I misunderstood. Direct-to-PC (and to Mac) distribution is already here, but it’s post-DVD rather than at the same time as cinematic release. You’re right, it’s based on the old way of doing things: the entire industry is based around the model of opening weekends (with a few – very few – exceptions, who know the money’s really in DVD these days).

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